Minimizing Disclosure Risk in HHS Open Data Initiatives. B. Additional Laws, Regulations, and Agency-wide Guidance

09/29/2014

Appendix D contains background and details on several other laws related to privacy that are pertinent to federal agencies: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, federal alcohol and drug confidentiality regulations, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and proposed legislation regarding the resale of consumer information. The Appendix also addresses regulations for the Census Bureau, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Department of Education and summarizes two manuals of internal rules maintained by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

To provide agency-wide guidance, in 1999 an FCSM interest group, the predecessor to the current Confidentiality and Data Access Committee (CDAC), prepared a “Checklist on Disclosure Potential of Proposed Data Releases.” The Checklist, which has been updated a number of times, asks a number of questions about the proposed release of data—both public use microdata and tabular data. For microdata, for example, the Checklist asks about geographic detail reported on the file, top coding of continuous variables, and a number of other factors associated with disclosure risk. The Checklist also provides guidance on many of these topics. One purpose of the checklist was to provide a standardized document that agencies could prepare and submit to their disclosure review boards. Some agencies reference the Checklist as a resource in the preparation of public use data within their agencies. Other agencies have updated or developed their own versions of the Checklist to use in much the same way.

Another resource available to all agencies is Statistical Policy Working Paper 22, “Report on Statistical Disclosure Limitation Methodology” (FCSM 2005). The report describes numerous techniques for protecting public use data from disclosure, provides guidance in their use, and summarizes the practices of more than a dozen federal statistical agencies in preparing data for public release.

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