Proposals for 2001 samples of anonymized records: An assessment of disclosure risk
In 1991 Marsh and co-workers made the case for a sample of anonymized records (SAR) from the 1991 census of population. The case was accepted by the Office for National Statistics (then the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys) and a request was made by the Economic and Social Research Council to purchase the SARs. Two files were released for Great Britain—a 2% sample of individuals and a 1% sample of households. Subsequently similar samples were released for Northern Ireland. Since their release, the files have been heavily used for research and there has been no known breach of confidentiality. There is a considerable demand for similar files from the 2001 census, with specific requests for a larger sample size and lower population threshold for the individual SAR. This paper reassesses the analysis of Marsh and co-workers of the risk of identification of an individual or household in a sample of microdata from the 1991 census and also uses alternative ways of assessing risks with the 1991 SARs. The results of both the reassessment and the new analyses are reassuring and allow us to take the 1991 SARs as a base-line against which to assess proposals for changes to the size and structure of samples from the 2001 census.