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Reduced disclosure risk of aging data

Presenter 1
Arne Wolters
UK Data Archives, University of Essex
Presenter 2
Jo Wathan
University of Manchester

This paper argues that, using the UK census data from 1961-1981 as a case study, the age of data limits the availability of matching data, and the disclosure risk through spontaneous recognition. Dissemination of data from which individual identity can be deduced from the data, by themselves or with published information is prohibited under the Statistics and Registration Service Act (SRSA) in the UK, and by similar legislation elsewhere. Disclosure can arise from matching data on common keys, spontaneous recognition of oneself, acquaintances or of those in the spotlight. Disclosure also arises by recognizing identifiable combinations of characteristics known to the intruder. Contributing factors to the reduced disclosure risk are: (i) mortality of data subjects, using the English Life Tables, this paper estimates mortality rates for data subjects in the UK census data; (ii) lack of availability of matching data, by law organisation are limited in time they can keep personal data; (iii) memory loss, forgetting one’s own past, as well as that of other data subject; (iv) churn, the tendency for data to become outdated as circumstances of data subjects change. Arguably, the contributing factors above are independent and their effect on disclosure risk therefore additive.

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