records. First, individuals must be informed of the uses of their personal information and given the ability to control such uses. Second, he argued, administrative data can be shared for statistical purposes without consent, provided the data are protected from nonstatistical uses, echoing a point Straf had made earlier (see Chapter 1). Third, federal agencies must provide effective data stewardship, ensuring both appropriate protections and optimal use (Gates, 2008).

Moving to more practical issues, Gates observed that it is “hard to get these data,” requiring negotiations among lawyers, program managers, policy advisers, and institutional review boards in order to reach agreements on data sharing. He noted that any violation of confidentiality protections negatively affects all parties, including an administrative or a statistical agency that shares data with a researcher. However, the parties are not equally liable for protecting confidentiality. Depending on the arrangement for sharing of data, the researcher may not be liable, but the federal agency is always liable—which may make an agency reluctant to provide access. In addition, news reports about breaches of security in federal data systems (e.g., Lee and Goldfarb, 2006) raise concerns among the public and in Congress and put pressure on agencies to protect, rather than share, their data.

Legal and Policy Support

Both law and policy support the use of administrative data for statistical purposes, Gates said. The law not only authorizes the Census Bureau to acquire administrative records, but also goes further to state that the bureau must use such records “to the maximum extent possible … instead of conducting direct inquiries” (U.S. Code, Title 13, Sections 6, 9, and 23). The law protects administrative information that is used for statistical purposes from being reused for administrative purposes. The Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA) of 2002, another important law, requires uniform confidentiality protections among federal agencies that collect information for statistical purposes. Prior to this law, Gates said, agencies protected this information under a variety of laws and regulations—some more ironclad than others.

Many policy studies also support the use of administrative records for statistical purposes. In a key report, the congressionally mandated Privacy Protection Study Commission (1977) defined the concept of “functional separation” between use of individual information for statistical purposes and for administrative purposes. More recent reports (e.g., National Research Council, 1993) support the use of administrative records for statistical purposes in ways that protect individual privacy and data confidentiality.



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