in turn, encourage respondents to provide more accurate information to data collecting agencies and investigators.7 CIPSEA has gone far in establishing a consistent set of cross-agency guidelines, including penalties for unauthorized disclosure of confidential statistical information.

The second principle relates to the public purpose of statistical agency products, and draws from Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency (National Research Council, 2005a):

Principle 2: Subject to the confidentiality requirements identified above, data sharing among government statistical agencies and data access by others should be facilitated when it serves a substantial public purpose.

Data uses that serve a substantial public purpose include those that (1) lead to improvements in the quality, breadth, and usefulness of government statistical systems; (2) provide evidence-based analyses of government policies and of social and economic issues; and/or (3) contribute to advances in scientific knowledge.

The rationale for the public purpose principle is straightforward: Government administrative record systems and survey databases generate enormous public value in terms of informing decision makers (including those in the private sector) and are maintained at considerable cost to the public in the form of taxes and the time and monetary outlays associated with complying with reporting requirements.8 As such, the public is entitled to the full and effective use of these government assets, provided that such uses do not compromise the confidentiality and privacy assurances afforded to respondents.

Data systems should be designed to fulfill, to the greatest extent possible, the needs of users—researchers, policy makers, businesses, and the statistical agencies themselves—conditional on budget and on adhering to pledges of respondent confidentiality. The statistical agencies (BLS, Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis) require data to produce key aggregate income, product, and employment statistics. Currently, economic statistics are generated from multiple sources without an agreed-upon, centrally maintained universe of businesses. As a result, our business statis-


Private Lives and Public Policies (National Research Council, 1993) and follow-up reports (National Research Council, 2000, 2005) comprehensively cover data access and confidentiality issues associated with social science data. Chapter 7 of Private Lives and Public Policies specifically deals with statistical data on organizations and includes a discussion on sharing business lists.


The arguments underlying the “public purpose principle” are articulated in detail in National Research Council (1993, 2000, 2005b).

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