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Dealing with confidential research information - Anonymisation techniques and access regulations to enable using and sharing research data Data Management.

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Presentation on theme: "Dealing with confidential research information - Anonymisation techniques and access regulations to enable using and sharing research data Data Management."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dealing with confidential research information - Anonymisation techniques and access regulations to enable using and sharing research data Data Management and Sharing workshop London, 24 June 2008

2 Using and sharing confidential research data …obtained from people as participants Requires a combination of: discussing consent and confidentiality with participants / respondents (dialogue) anomymisation of data user access restrictions / regulations researchers only; registered users only; use license with confidentiality agreement; approved researchers; data unavailable for certain time period;

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

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

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

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

7 Relational data Extra care needed - 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 But: geo-referenced data are valuable for re-use. Maintaining geo-references and imposing access restrictions is better

9 Anonymising qualitative data Plan or apply editing at start anonymise during transcription, highlight sensitive info for later anonymising Except: longitudinal studies - anonymise when data collection complete (linkages) Avoid blanking out information Use pseudonyms or codes Removing or aggregating identifiers in text can distort data, make them unusable and unreliable or misleading - avoid over- anonymising Consistency within research team and throughout project [bracket] replacements for clarity XML mark-up can be used for anonymisation (TEI tag) word to be anonymised

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 Keep copy of original data Plan at start of research, not at the end

11 Sources 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] Economic and Social Data Services (ESDS) guidelines, UK Data Archive Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Guide to Social Science Data Preparation and Archiving: Best Practice Throughout the Data Life Cycle. 3rd Edition. ICPSR, Ann Arbor. 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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