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Private Lives and Public Policies: Confidentiality and Accessibility of Government Statistics
the difference between mandatory and voluntary data collections, saying that "statisticians should attempt to ensure that subjects appreciate the purpose of a statistical inquiry, even when the subject's participation is required by law" (p. 236). Second, the declaration approaches the question of statistical uses of administrative data from an unusual perspective, that of minimizing intrusions on data providers:
One way of avoiding inconvenience to potential subjects is to make more use of available data instead of embarking on a new inquiry. For instance, by making greater statistical use of administrative records, or by linking records, information about society may be produced that would otherwise have to be collected afresh. Although some subjects may have objections to the data's being used for a different purpose from that intended, they would not be adversely affected by such uses provided that their identities are protected and that the purpose is statistical, not administrative (p. 235).
The declaration also states that the guidelines are not meant to be limited to persons. A footnote to Section 4 (p. 234) says, "This section of the declaration refers to human subjects, including individuals, households and corporate entities."
Matching Survey and Administrative Data
The practice of matching survey and administrative records for the same individuals has become increasingly common over the past three decades. Such linkages are performed for statistical purposes, most commonly to enhance a survey data base with additional information for the same persons (for an example, see the description of the 1973 Exact Match Study in Chapter 6). Advances in computer power, combined with widespread use of Social Security numbers as personal identifiers by units of government at all levels, have increased the economic and technical feasibility of matching individual records from different sources.
During this same period, the trend has been toward the inclusion of more explicit information about planned linkages in informed consent or notification statements. If Social Security numbers are requested in survey interviews, it becomes a virtual necessity, regardless of any legal or ethical imperatives, to tell data providers how they will be used. Some survey respondents will surely want to know why the numbers are needed.