Introducing the Statistical Disclosure Control Handbook

James Scott and Christine Woods, both Senior User Support and Training Officers (Secure Access Training) at the UK Data Service, introduce us to the Statistical Disclosure Control Handbook that they have been working on as part of the Safe Data Access Professionals (SDAP) group.



There are now quite a number of safe settings that provide access to highly detailed microdata, like the UK Data Service’s Secure Lab.

An essential element to how these settings operate is safeguarding against the statistical results created within them leading to the identification of the people or organisations that the data are about (identification) and discovering confidential information about them (attribution). This safeguarding process is known as statistical disclosure control (SDC).

What is the SDC Handbook and who is it for?

Members of the Safe Data Access Professionals (SDAP) group, which includes experienced staff from a number of UK institutions (see SDAP website for details), have produced an SDC Handbook.

This Handbook is intended for use by both analysts and staff responsible for carrying out statistical disclosure control checks. It contains guidance about how to assess statistical results produced from confidential sources of data, before they are released from the safe setting and into the wider world.

Intended to act as a handy reference guide, the Handbook provides practical guidance about assessing a variety of statistics for statistical disclosure control purposes and aims to dovetail with current training courses such as the Safe Researcher Training (SRT) course. It also provides advice to organisations on setting up and managing the SDC process.

With a huge range of potential outputs and statistical approaches open to analysts, the examples in the Handbook are not intended to be exhaustive. However, they do cover wide array of different output types, highlight where potential issues may arise and suggest ways in which these issues may be mitigated.

What next?

As noted above, the Handbook can currently be found on the SDAP website.

The authors have pooled their collective knowledge and experience of SDC, but we acknowledge that there are others beyond the SDAP group whom we have not spoken to yet and that their experience could also be valuable.

We do not intend this to be a static document and will update/amend where necessary from time to time.  There are researchers in statistical confidentiality and privacy who we would be grateful to hear from.

The SDAP group intend to launch the Handbook at a workshop (date TBC).


About the authors

James and Christine are part of the User Support Team at the UK Data Archive and members of the Safe Data Access Professionals Group.

James is largely involved with Secure Lab and the training associated with its use. He has worked on research projects covering such diverse topics as perceptions of social class, young people’s involvement in gangs, households’ response to job loss, and Christmas.

Christine focuses on supporting researchers accessing the Secure Lab, including providing advice on using and linking data, delivering training, and carrying out statistical disclosure control checks of research outputs. Prior to joining the UK Data Archive she was a crime and drugs researcher at the Home Office.



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