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This should be read in conjunction with the Glossary on Statistical Disclosure Control developed by the Joint UNECE/Eurostat Work Session on Statistical Data Confidentiality. (Available at:

National Statistical Office (NSO)

Although the term is used in the singular, it is meant to incorporate all statistical agencies, or statistical units within government departments, who produce official statistics and provide access to microdata for statistical or research purposes.

Research community

Although this mainly refers to people working in research institutions such as universities, it also includes researchers working in government agencies, NGOs, international agencies and the private sector. Some countries may want to define the research community more narrowly and only include those working in research institutions.

Statistical purposes

It is particularly important to make a distinction between statistical and administrative uses. In the case of statistical use, individual data are used as an input to derive statistics that refer to a group of persons or legal entities. It may also incorporate support for other activities within a NSO (e.g. sample selection off a business register). Administrative uses concern decisions about a particular person or legal entity which may bring benefit or harm to the individual.

The statistics referred to above include statistical aggregates, statistical distributions, parameters for models and other forms of statistical analysis that may refer to groups of individuals or organizations without identifying them.

Microdata used for research is consistent with statistical purposes if it is being used to produce the type of statistics referred to in the previous paragraph.

Anonymised microdata files - Public Use Files

These are microdata files that are disseminated for general public use. They have been anonymised and are often released on a medium such as CD-ROM sometimes through a data archive. The term anonymised implies that not only are names and addresses removed but that other steps are taken to ensure that identification of individuals is highly unlikely.

Anonymised microdata files - licensed files

The term anonymised implies that not only are names and addresses removed but that other steps are taken to ensure that identification of individuals is highly unlikely.
Licensed files are distinct from Public Use Files in that use is restricted to approved researchers for approved purposes. A legal undertaking is signed before files are provided to them.

Remote Access Facilities

These are facilities that provide researchers with the ability to produce statistical outputs from microdata through computer networks without researchers actually 'seeing' the microdata. The microdata itself does not leave the National Statistical Office. Remote Access Facilities may be of two types.

  • (a) Remote execution where a researcher submits a programme and receives the output later by email.
  • (b) Remote facilities where the researcher performs the analysis and can immediately see the answer on the screen.
Data laboratories

This involves working on-site at the National Statistical Office, or one of its Branches, to obtain access to microdata. Access could be direct or indirect through staff of the National Statistical Offices. If access is direct, the researcher is in effect being treated as a temporary employee of the National Statistical Office with the inherent responsibilities.

Data swapping

A disclosure control method for microdata that involves the swapping the values of records that match on selected records. The techniques maintain statistics such as means, variances and univariate distributions but can affect multivariate distributions.

Data perturbation

Techniques for the release of microdata which change the data before dissemination in such a way that the disclosure risk for the microdata is decreased but the information content is retained as far as possible. Perturbation methods falsify the data by introducing an element of error purposely for confidentiality reasons. Possible perturbation methods are:

  • rounding,
  • addition of random noise.
Risk avoidance

This approach tries to eliminate all risks. In the case of microdata confidentiality, it requires the confidentiality of the data to be absolute, not only in its own right, but in association with other available data.

Risk management

Within the constraints provided by legislation, it involves identification of the risks and managing them in accordance with their significance (impact) and their likelihood. More effort is put into managing the high impact, strong likelihood risks. Microdata confidentiality may not be absolute when considered in association with other data. Confidentiality could be considered in association with other means of reducing the risk.

Data linking

Data can be linked by exact matches (e.g. using an identifier such as name and address or ID number) or by statistical matches (using probabilistic matches). They may be NSO data sets only, a NSO and administrative data sets, or administrative data sets only. Data sets for a particular collection could be linked longitudinally. All these possibilities are incorporated within data linking.

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