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SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS The Committee on Federal Agency Evaluation Research is releasing this report in hopes that it will arouse informed debate on an important public issue: how to protect the privacy of individuals who provide information about themselves to be used in the evaluation of federal government programs. The issue is difficult because it involves reconciling two important objectives: government accountability and individual privacy. Holding the government accountable for its use of the taxpayers' money (and making inform- ed decisions about future use of such money) necessitates evaluating the effectiveness of government programs in meeting the needs of the people they are supposed to serve. Such evaluation may require the collection of sensitive information from individuals as to how their health, employment, income, or other aspects of their lives have been altered by the government's efforts. The collection of such information entails risks to the individual's privacy— risks that the information collected for evaluation will be used for some other purpose to the detriment of the person who provided it. The Committee believes that both objectives are important and that neither should be sacrificed to the other. Ways can and must be found to evaluate government programs without endangering the privacy of people who cooperate in such evaluation by providing information about themselves. To this end the Committee recommends: (1) that all federal agencies engaging in evaluation research adopt rigorous procedures to ensure that data collected about individuals in the course of such research are kept strictly confidential and are not used for purposes other than such research or released in any way that permits identification of individuals; 1Throughout the body of this Report, the words "data" and "information" are used interchangeably and refer to facts or opinions that people give about themselves through written or oral responses to researchers. This meaning and usage also applies to Appendix A. In Appendix B (and in the Report's refer- ence to that Appendix), the words "data" and "information" are also used inter- changeably, but more broadly: they include not only the responses from re- search subjects but also researchers' work products, i.e., all materials re- sulting from all aspects of the research process.
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(2) that consideration be given to enactment of a federal statute that would protect from subpoena information collected from individuals in the course of federal evaluation research and thus prevent such information from being used in law enforce- ment or other legal proceedings. These recommendations and the reasoning behind them are discussed below.