10. Disclosure control
Individual data records are important for operational decision making, as well as for research purposes; however, due to the sensitive nature of the information contained in an individual's data, their direct release would violate an individual's right to confidentiality and privacy, and be at odds with data protection legislation.
This is also central to the Code of Practice for Statistics, where the majority of the statistical principles are relevant to disaggregating and presenting data, in particular, Practice T4.2 under the Trustworthiness pillar, which states that:
- The identity of individuals or organisations must be protected at all times. Appropriate disclosure control methods, including the nature of any consent given, should be applied when releasing statistics (Practice T4.2)
And the UN Principles of International Statistics also emphasise the importance of maintaining confidentiality:
6. Individual data collected about natural persons and legal entities, or about small aggregates that are subject to national confidentiality rules, are to be kept strictly confidential and are to be used exclusively for statistical purposes or for purposes mandated by legislation.
Good practices include:
- Putting measures in place to prevent the direct or indirect disclosure of data on persons, households, businesses and other individual respondents
- Developing a framework describing methods and procedures to provide sets of anonymous micro-data for further analysis by bona fide researchers, maintaining the requirements of confidentiality
Statistical disclosure control aims to protect anonymity of the individual who has provided the data, and maintains confidentiality and privacy by using one of a range of disclosure control methods (e.g. data swapping, recoding, suppression, or data identiﬁers can be removed or encoded and data ﬁelds can be modiﬁed by means of statistical disclosure controls), while overall the integrity and usefulness of the anonymised data is preserved.
You should consult Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance on statistical disclosure control before releasing data that could potentially be identifiable.
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