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Confidentiality and Data Access Committee

Confidentiality and Data Access Committee

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Slide 2 of 9


Data confidentiality had been an issue that statistical agencies were working on since the 1960s. New legislation during the 1970s, such as the Privacy Act, and Freedom of Information Act, had profound impacts on survey data collection and data release policies for the federal agencies. It was during the 1960s and 1970s that cell suppression methodology developed as the main tool for preserving data confidentiality. The approach taken by each agency varied. One reason was that some agencies had specific legislation requiring agencies to protect the confidentiality of the information collected through surveys. The vast majority of federal agencies do not. All agencies are subject to FOIA and the Privacy Act. These pieces of legislation require agencies to disclose all the information they collect to the public unless the information collections falls within one of the exceptions of FOIA or the Privacy Act. Some federal surveys are mandatory, and some are voluntary. Federal agencies developed different approaches to protecting data during collection, processing, and after its release. In 1978, the FCSM released Statistical Working Paper No. 2 A report on statistical disclosure techniques. This report was intended to help managerial and technical staff of Federal agencies which publish or otherwise release on methodologies to achieve appropriate disclosure-avoidance practices. This patch work approach continued to grow during the 1980s. By the 1990s, the number of electronic data products being released to the public by federal agencies was growing, and at the same time, the proliferation of publicly available electronic data bases and advances in computer technology added more complexity to the field of protecting data confidentiality. The FCSM was once again focused their attention to this area.