Microdata Linkage

Microdata linkage is an internationally recognized statistical method that maximizes the use of existing information by linking different files and variables to create new information that benefit Canadians. Statistics Canada performs microdata linkages to support the design, maintenance, evaluation, research and redesign of ongoing data collection and methodological studies within Statistics Canada, as well as to provide statistical information in aggregate or anonymous format in support of research studies.

Statistics Canada takes your privacy and the confidentiality of your data very seriously. Several steps are taken during the process of microdata linkage to ensure that your personal information is kept confidential at all times.

Microdata can include units of a population, such as individuals, households or businesses. We first link the different data records by using the variables they have in common. In order to protect your confidentiality, all personal information are removed, so that the linked files are anonymized, or de-identified. In addition, synthetic versions rather than original data are often generated and accessed by researchers. This ensures your private information remains confidential while allowing researchers the access required to develop policies to help the Canadian public. The data is next aggregated or compiled to produce non-confidential published products. These confidential files are restricted to only Statistics Canada and deemed employees who are sworn to secrecy, and subject to fines and/or imprisonment, should they reveal confidential information. 

Statistics Canada does recognize that researchers require access to microdata at the individual business, household or person level for research purposes. To preserve the privacy and confidentiality of individuals, businesses and organizations, and to encourage the use of microdata, Statistics Canada offers a wide range of options through a series of online channels, facilities and programs. More details are available at Access to microdata.

The Social Data Linkage Environment (SDLE) at Statistics Canada promotes the innovative use of existing administrative and survey data, and expands the potential of data integration across multiple domains through the creation of linked analytical data files without the need to collect additional data from Canadians.

As part of its governance over microdata linkages, Statistics Canada has pre-approved specific types of linkages. The linkages involved are those where the privacy risks and situations of potential conflict of interest are low and where procedures to mitigate risk to confidentiality and privacy are in place.

All other microdata linkages must undergo a prescribed review and approval process, which involves the submission of well documented proposals. When such linkages include personal information, a summary of the approved microdata linkage is posted on Statistics Canada's website.

Microdata linkage must adhere to Statistics Canada’s Directive on Microdata Linkage, which is designed to ensure the public value of each linkage truly outweighs any intrusion on privacy that it represents. For more information on the microdata linkage process and a summary of the approved microdata linkages see Microdata Linkage at Statistics Canada.

If you have any questions about microdata linkage, please contact the Departmental Privacy Officer at the following address:

Linda Howatson-Leo
Departmental Privacy Officer
Information Management Division Director
Analytical Studies, Methodology and Statistical Infrastructure Field
Statistics Canada / Government of Canada
Linda.Howatson-Leo@canada.ca / Tel: 613-951-0466

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