A license to use statistical data

Statistics Finland is allowed to release or give access rights to data it has collected for statistical purposes to be used in scientific research and statistical surveys. Statistics Finland may not release or give access rights to data received for statistical purposes in an investigation, surveillance, legal proceedings, administrative decision-making or other similar handling concerning an individual, enterprise, corporation or foundation.

Access rights refer to a more restricted right to process data than what release of data entails. At Statistics Finland, access rights can be given to researchers concerning such confidential data from which the possibility of direct identification of statistical units has been removed. In most cases, access rights are given through Statistics Finland's remote access system FIONA. It is a question of releasing data when, pursuant to Section 19 of the Statistics Act, data on age, sex, education, occupation and socio-economic group are submitted to a user licence applicant.

Section 28 of the Act on the Openness of Government Activities also applies to the granting of a user licence. A user licence may be granted in an individual case if it is evident that releasing the data will not violate the interests for which the obligation of professional secrecy has been provided. When processing an application for a licence to use statistical data, particular attention is paid to data protection issues. When a user licence is being considered, the need to ensure freedom of scientific research should also be safeguarded.

When granting a licence to use statistical data, the following principles and conditions are observed:

User licence recipient

The applicant and controller of a user licence can be a public authority, an institute or an individual researcher. The user licence is always granted to a certain person or persons, even if the applicant is an authority or institute. The persons using the data must be indicated as specifically as possible in the application. You must request a change to the user licence if the person(s) change(s) or transfer(s) to another institute where the research is to continue.

For each study, a manager or other person must be appointed in charge of it, whose task it is to ensure that all persons participating in the use of the data are aware of the conditions of the user licence and abide by them. 


Statistics Finland's data resources contain data collected for statistical purposes. A user licence is granted for ready-made datasets formed for research and survey purposes and to data specifically tailored for each research project. Statistics Finland can also act as a licence authority for the use of ready-made datasets of other register controllers.

According to the Statistics Act, Statistics Finland decides independently on all user licences granted for its basic data.

When considering the granting of a licence, account is also taken of other data that the applicants already have at their disposal. If a licence is granted and the use of Statistics Finland’s data requires its processing in the FIONA remote access system, its combining to other data must take place at Statistics Finland. 

Specification of the purpose of use and the data to be used

The applicant for a licence must specify, in sufficient detail, both the purpose for which the statistical data are to be used, and the material requested from Statistics Finland, and their necessity for the study. In addition, any other data materials that will be used must be specified. A research plan and if data to be released are applied for (not for remote access), a data protection notification/data protection description of the survey must be attached to the application.

In special cases, for instance when the application extends widely to data concerning offences and infractions and on a large-scale data belonging to specific categories of personal data, Statistics Finland requires that the applicant carry out a data protection impact assessment.

At the time of application when specifying the data, Statistics Finland must clarify with the researcher the suitability of the data to the research in question. 

Identification data

Identification data (from personal data mainly personal identity codes, names, addresses and any other pertinent data; and in the case of other statistical units, the identification data) are removed from the data for which a licence has been granted, or the data are made less detailed or combined in order to prevent identification. The data to be removed or the manner of combination are indicated in the licence decision. Identification data can be replaced with pseudo identifiers that enable combining of different datasets.

Identification data can be left intact when the applicant requests data on the cause of death using personal identification of a particular group of people. Data on age, sex, education, occupation and socio-economic group may also be released with identification data if the applicant is entitled to collect such data by virtue of the General Data Protection Regulation. An account of this must be included in the application. An additional requirement is that the release of the data in identifiable form is necessary with regard to the study.

Modes and means of releasing data

Access to research data where indirect identification is possible is granted at Statistics Finland as remote access use (FIONA remote access system) or the data are used at Statistics Finland's Research Laboratory. The FIONA remote access system is an audited data secure operating environment that requires strong identification. Logging in to FIONA is made using either the Haka, Suomi.fi, Virtu or EduGAIN identification and Duo Security's mobile application. Data made fully unidentifiable and the data listed in Section 19 of the Statistics Act can also be released to researchers. 

Statistics Finland has the right to view the outputs to be exported from the remote access system. The recipient of a user licence may also be requested to make a presentation of the results from the study or research to Statistics Finland prior to its publication.

Conditions of the licence

The data may only be used for the purpose stated in the decision. The data must also be treated as confidential, and they may not be handed over to others without permission from Statistics Finland. All persons who participate in the processing of data must sign a pledge of secrecy.

The use of the pledge of secrecy is based on the recommendation of the European Commission on the independence, integrity and accountability of the national and Community statistical authorities. The recommendation can be found from the link below.

Validity of a user licence

A user licence is granted for a fixed period, at most for five years. For this reason, the application for user licence must indicate the estimated duration for which the data required for the specified purpose will be used. 

Permission to use data granted through remote access use ends at the term of the fixed period unless the user licence is renewed. The data released to researchers and any possible copies of them must be destroyed at the point of time specified in the user licence. Statistics Finland must be notified about their destruction. Statistics Finland monitors that the destroying clause is adhered to in accordance with the user licence decision.

Contact person

The person who, on behalf of Statistics Finland, serves as the contact person on issues relating to the release and use of statistical data must be specified in the user licence decision. 

Filing application

Apply for a user licence and submit a pledge of secrecy in Statistics Finland 's licensing service.

Fill in the application carefully so that your application can be processed without complementing it. Further information about applying for a user licence is available on the Research services' Micro data website.