Data protection is a fundamental principle of official statistics, the objective of which is to ensure the trust of data suppliers and the availability of reliable basic data. Attending to the protection of data is a prerequisite for the trust Statistics Finland must have when collecting data. To be able to compile reliable statistics, Statistics Finland's basic data must be as reliable and exhaustive as possible. This can only be achieved if the data suppliers can be confident that data concerning them will be treated in an appropriate manner taking data protection needs into account.
Data protection provisions define what data can be collected, how data may be processed and in which form they may be published. The data protection rules applying to official statistics are contained in the Statistics Act, the Personal Data Act, the Act on the Openness of Government Activities, and the EU Regulation on European Statistics.
The Statistics Act requires that respondents' identification data, such as name or personal identification number, are not collected or stored unless it is necessary for the production of statistics. It is usually necessary when identification data are needed for combining the collected data with some other data. In such cases, the Personal Data Act also allows the use of the personal identification number.
Confidentiality and disclosure of data
All basic data collected for statistics are stored at Statistics Finland. Some of the data derive from Statistics Finland's own or other registers and some have been collected by Statistics Finland with inquiries or interviews. All data collected for statistical purposes are confidential. The only exceptions are the data describing the activities of central and local government authorities and the production of public services, as well as the data in the Register of Enterprises and Establishments.
Confidentiality means that data must be protected against misuse at all stages of statistics production, identification data must be erased as soon as they are no longer required, and statistics must be published so that target units cannot be identified from them.
As a rule, Statistics Finland may only release confidential data only for scientific research or statistical surveys concerning social conditions in a form from which individual persons or businesses cannot be identified. Only data on age, gender, occupation and education may be released with identification data for research and statistical purposes. Confidential data may never be released for use in an investigation, surveillance, legal proceedings, or similar purposes.
Interview surveys operate on the principle of consent based on knowledge: interviewees must be told before the interview for which purposes the collected data will be used. Collected data may only be used for the purposes interviewees have been informed about. The same principle applies when interviews are made as a subcontractor for another research institution.
The Ethics Committee operates at Statistics Finland to issue statements on principally significant cases of release and on questions relating to the application of the Statistics Act.