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The dual problems of respecting citizen privacy and protecting the confidentiality of their data have become hopelessly conflated in the “Big Data” era. There are orders of magnitude more data outside an agency’s firewall than inside it—compromising the integrity of traditional statistical disclosure limitation methods. And increasingly the information processed by the agency was “asked” in a context wholly outside the agency’s operations—blurring the distinction between what was asked and what is published. Already, private businesses like Microsoft, Google and Apple recognize that cybersecurity (safeguarding the integrity and access controls for internal data) and privacy protection (ensuring that what is published does not reveal too much about any person or business) are two sides of the same coin. This is a paradigm-shifting moment for statistical agencies.


Published in Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality Volume 7 (2015-2017) Iss. 3 (2017):1-15. .

Abowd acknowledges support through NSF Grants 1131848 (NCRN) and 1012593 (TC:Large), and through the Labor Dynamics Institute.