Linkage and security
Linkage at Population Data BC (PopData) is done following strict guidelines and within a high-security environment. As personally identifying information, such as names, dates of birth, Personal Health Numbers (PHNs) or Personal Education Numbers (PENs) may be used in linkages, a number of precautions are taken to maximize security and privacy.
- Identifying information (identifiers) which are used only for linkage is removed from the content data at the earliest possible time.
- Identifier information is securely stored separately from the content information.
- All information is stored in the “Red Zone” – a highly-secure space accessible only to PopData personnel.
- Programmers work on “Red Zone” terminals which have no direct connection to the outside world. This space is separated and secured both physically and electronically.
- Identifier information is only handled by specially trained programmers who have undergone privacy and information security training and have signed confidentiality agreements.
- When content data is released to researchers for approved research projects, the PopData ID is replaced with a Study ID – a person specific number which is unique to each Research Extract. In this way, records for one research project cannot be linked to records for the same individual from another research project.
- In signing a Research Agreement with a public body for access to data, researchers commit to sending Research Materials to the public body in advance of public dissemination. Data Stewards, as those responsible for ensuring appropriate uses of the public body’s data, check that:
- Privacy / confidentiality requirements are upheld
- There is no gross misuse of the data
- The data is appropriately referenced