Minimizing Disclosure Risk in HHS Open Data Initiatives. IV. Issues in Protecting Microdata From Disclosure


In the previous chapter we reviewed methods that federal agencies and other organizations use to protect the confidentiality of the data they release. In this chapter we examine what the literature tells us about disclosure risk and about an important side-effect of protecting data from disclosure: a reduction in the data’s usefulness for research. Section A discusses the concept of disclosure, reviews some instances in which individuals have been re-identified in data released to the public (although not by the federal government), explores the potential sources of disclosure risk, discusses the legal environment, and outlines approaches to assessing disclosure risk. Section B discusses ways in which the utility of data is reduced by strategies to limit disclosure and, related to this, how the loss of information can be measured. A fuller discussion of these issues is presented in Appendix E.

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