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Statistical Safeguards

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Before we publish any statistic, we apply safeguards that help prevent someone from being able to trace that statistic back to a specific respondent.

We call these safeguards “disclosure avoidance,” although these methods are also known as “statistical disclosure controls” or “statistical disclosure limitations.”

Although it might appear that a published table shows information about a specific individual, the Census Bureau has taken steps to disguise the original data in such a way that the results are still useful. These steps include using statistical methods such as “data swapping” and “noise injection.”

The Census Bureau has a long history of innovations in statistical protection. With each advance in data science we’ve applied better and stronger protections to keep the statistics we release anonymous.

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Disclosure Avoidance and the 2020 Census

The 2020 Census will use a powerful new privacy protection system known in scientific circles as “differential privacy,” designed specifically for the digital age. The Census Bureau is transitioning to this new, state-of-the-art privacy protection system to keep pace with emerging threats in today’s digital world.

Disclosure Avoidance Policies

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Disclosure Review Board

Our Disclosure Review Board sets the confidentiality rules for all data product releases. It supports the Data Stewardship Executive Policy Committee (DSEP) in its efforts to ensure full compliance with Title 13 and Title 26 respondent confidentiality in all data products.

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Disclosure Avoidance for Custom Tabulations

All custom tabulations must be approved by the Census Bureau’s Disclosure Review Board (DRB). Restrictions apply; staff from the relevant survey office will help you navigate the process.

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