Statistical disclosure control methods for census frequency tables

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This paper provides a review of common statistical disclosure control (SDC) methods implemented at statistical agencies for standard tabular outputs containing whole population counts from a census (either enumerated or based on a register). These methods include record swapping on the microdata prior to its tabulation and rounding of entries in the tables after they are produced. The approach for assessing SDC methods is based on a disclosure risk-data utility framework and the need to find a balance between managing disclosure risk while maximizing the amount of information that can be released to users and ensuring high quality outputs. To carry out the analysis, quantitative measures of disclosure risk and data utility are defined and methods compared. Conclusions from the analysis show that record swapping as a sole SDC method leaves high probabilities of disclosure risk. Targeted record swapping lowers the disclosure risk, but there is more distortion of distributions. Small cell adjustments (rounding) give protection to census tables by eliminating small cells but only one set of variables and geographies can be disseminated in order to avoid disclosure by differencing nested tables. Full random rounding offers more protection against disclosure by differencing, but margins are typically rounded separately from the internal cells and tables are not additive. Rounding procedures protect against the perception of disclosure risk compared to record swapping since no small cells appear in the tables. Combining rounding with record swapping raises the level of protection but increases the loss of utility to census tabular outputs. For some statistical analysis, the combination of record swapping and rounding balances to some degree opposing effects that the methods have on the utility of the tables. © 2007 International Statistical Institute.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-217
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Statistical Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • Data utility measures
  • Disclosure risk measures
  • R-U confidentiality map


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