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Microdata access protocols

Access principles

Research proposals to access microdata will be assessed using the following principles:

  • Access to microdata must be for statistical purposes and/or bona fide research purposes.
  • Access to microdata must be consistent with the Statistics Act and other relevant legislation.
  • Access to microdata is at the discretion of the Government Statistician.
  • Access to microdata must protect respondents’ confidentiality.
  • Access to microdata must not adversely affect Statistics New Zealand’s relationship with respondents.
  • Decisions on requests for access to microdata will be provided through transparent processes.

Some datasets held by Statistics New Zealand have been collected under an Act other than the Statistics Act. Consent to access tax data, such microdata must be obtained from the Chief Executive of the steward agency. Access must take into account provisions in the Privacy Act which govern the use of information beyond the purpose for which it was originally collected. Examples of such data sources are vitals, imports and exports, building consents data and justice statistics. The Privacy Commissioner will be consulted in cases where an express legal provision exists that parallels or constrains the Statistics Act 1975.

Five Safes

Statistics NZ operates within a 'five safes' framework to ensure that access to microdata is only provided if all of the following conditions can be met:

  • Safe people – researchers can be trusted to use the data appropriately and follow procedures
  • Safe projects – the project has a statistical purpose and is in the public interest
  • Safe settings – security arrangements prevent unauthorised access to the data
  • Safe data – the data itself inherently limits the risks of disclosure
  • Safe output – the statistical results produced do not contain any disclosive results

Statistics Act 1975 provisions

It is important for all researchers to be familiar with the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act 1975, as well as other relevant legislation such as the Privacy Act 1993.

There are four sections of the Statistics Act 1975 which make it possible to provide access to microdata researchers.

Researchers

Under Section 37C of the Act, individual schedules (ie microdata) can be disclosed in certain circumstances.

This disclosure is at the discretion of the Government Statistician and is "solely for bona fide research or statistical purposes in relation to a matter of public interest".

Researchers must have "the necessary research experience, knowledge and skills to access and use the information contained in the schedules". Each researcher must also sign a Declaration of Secrecy. 

Joint surveys

Under Section 37B, information that is collected jointly by Statistics New Zealand and another government department, local authority or statutory body may be shared between those organisations.

Employees from the other organisations involved in collecting or processing the data are required to sign a Declaration of Secrecy. Obligations under the Act will extend to any agency involved in a joint collection.

Permission from supplier

Under Section 37A,  information may be disclosed if consent is obtained in writing from the person supplying it. This section of the Act outlines several other circumstances in which the Government Statistician may authorise access to microdata.

In some cases, Statistics New Zealand may hold datasets which are not collected under the Statistics Act 1975, however relevant provisions of the Act, as well as appropriate policies, are considered to apply to them.

Historical documents

Under Section 37D, where the Government Statistician has classified documents as historical, she/he may authorise disclosure after 100 years.

Penalties for contravening the Act are outlined in the Statistics Act 1975.

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