Data confidentiality Q&A

Data confidentiality is one of the most important issues at Understanding Society. Here we interview the Survey Manager, Dr Jon Burton to find out how your identity is being kept safe.

If you would like to ask the Understanding Society team a specific question about the security of your data, please contact our Participant Liason Team.


Question and Answers

Will people using the data know that it’s me?

No. None of the information we deposit with the Data Archive contains personal details. There are no names, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses on the data.

How is the data transferred during data linkage?

We use a secure on-line portal which is password-protected to transfer the information between us and the government agencies. Only those who are authorised to use the portal have a password, and the password and log-in are unique to each user. The data are encrypted before being uploaded onto the portal. We are compliant with the standards of the ISO 27001 data security protocols and procedures. We will never send data through the post, by courier or taxi or by unsecured email. You can read more about how we link data here

Who will get access to the information once it is linked?

Researchers first have to apply for a Special Licence. This gives extra protection to who can use the data, and for what purpose. It also obliges the researcher to store the data securely and to delete it once it has been used for the stated purpose.

Is my information secure if I do the survey online?

Yes, the information you provide online is secure. You are issued with unique survey log-in details and the information you provide is then downloaded onto secure servers.

Will government departments and agencies know that it’s me?

No. In the case of linked records, we will have to give the government agencies the personal information they require to select the correct administrative record. However, they are then legally obliged to delete the personal information we send them, before they return the administrative records to us. We make the link between the administrative records and survey answers at the University, so the government agencies cannot link your survey answers to your personal details.

What do you do with the information you collect from me?

When we receive the information it is anonymised, so that your personal details such as name, address or date of birth are removed. It is then deposited with the UK Data Archive based here at the University of Essex. Social researchers can register with the Data Archive to use the Understanding Society data. This data is free to genuine social researchers, not to commercial companies.

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