WISERD Data Resources, WISERD/WDR/006

Statistical disclosure control (SDC) in a research environment poses particular problems. Most SDC research is concerned with ensuring that a finite set of tabular outputs are safe from disclosure, or that microdatasets are sufficiently anonymised. By its nature, a research environment is one where confidential data is made available for analysis with very few restrictions. Imposing SDC rules not designed specifically for this environment may lead to excessively complex rules which still fail to achieve the objectives of flexibility and effectiveness.

This paper argues that the research environment requires a different approach to traditional SDC based on a small collection of simple rules with a necessary “fuzziness” in interpretation. This requires (a) clear agreement on the principles and general purpose of SDC (b) the demonstration of classes of safe and unsafe outputs and (c) the active involvement of researchers. However, this does raise a number of practical issues.