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Dealing with confidential research information anonymisation techniques and other measures to enable using and sharing research data Data Management and.

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Presentation on theme: "Dealing with confidential research information anonymisation techniques and other measures to enable using and sharing research data Data Management and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dealing with confidential research information anonymisation techniques and other measures to enable using and sharing research data Data Management and Sharing workshop Leeds and Essex, 11 March 2008

2 Using and sharing confidential research data Requires a combination of: discussing consent and confidentiality with participants / respondents (dialogue) anomymisation of data user access restrictions e.g. researchers only; use license with confidentiality agreement What is required depends on: nature of research planned data uses is study specific

3 Identity disclosure A persons identity can be disclosed through: direct identifiers name, address, postcode, telephone number, voice, picture etc. usually NOT essential research information (administrative) indirect identifiers – possible disclosure in combination with other information occupation, geography, unique or exceptional values / characteristics,…

4 Why anonymise data? Ethical reasons –protect identity (sensitive, illegal, confidential info) –disguise research location Commercial reasons Legal reason – protect personal data (DPA)

5 Essential points Never disclose personal data (unless specific consent) Reasonable / appropriate level of anonymity Maintain maximum meaningful info Where possible replace rather than remove Identifying info may provide context, so do not over- anonymise Re-users of data have the same legal and ethical obligation to NOT disclose personal and confidential information

6 Anonymising quantitative data Remove direct identifiers or replace with code e.g names, address, institution Reduce the variable precision through aggregation e.g postcode sector vs full postcode, birth year vs date, occupational categories Generalise meaning of text e.g. occupational expertise Restrict upper / lower ranges to hide outliers e.g. income or age

7 Relational data Extra care is need - combinations of related datasets or a dataset in combination with publicly available info can disclose information E.g. businesses studied are mapped in publication

8 Geo-referenced data Point data may reveal position of individuals, organisations, businesses, etc. Remove point coordinates – loss of all geographical info Reduce precision - replace point coordinates with line or polygon of larger area km 2 area, postcode district, ward, road, … Reduce precision - replace point coordinate with meaningful variable typifying the geographical position catchment area, poverty index, population density

9 Anonymising qualitative data Removing or aggregating identifiers in text can distort data, make them unusable and unreliable / misleading Avoid blanking out information Use pseudonyms or codes Consistency Plan replacements at start (where possible) e.g. anonymise during transcription, or highlight sensitive info for later anonymising Exc.: longitudinal studies – anonymise when data collection complete [bracket] replacements for clarity XML mark-up for anonymisation can be used (TEI tag) e.g. Mary

10 Tips Always consider anonymisation together with consent agreements and user access restrictions Regulating / restricting user access may offer a better solution than anonymising Remove, mask, change identifiers Maintain maximum information Create log of all anonymisations Be consistent in anonymisation techniques used; use throughout study, publications, etc. Keep copy of original data Plan at start of research, not at the end

11 Sources Economic and Social Data Services (ESDS) guidelines, UK Data Archive Clark, A Anonymising research data. NCRM Working Paper Series 7/06. ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. [http://www.ncrm.ac.uk/research/outputs/publications/WorkingPapers/200 6/0706_anonymising_research_data.pdf] Timescapes meetings & discussions

12 Exercises / scenarios Anonymising qualitative data: –Foot & mouth study Cumbria (5407) –Conflicts and violence in prison (4596) Anonymising quantitative data: Labour Force Survey Confidential relational and geo-referenced data: British Household Panel Survey


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