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Committee on Privacy and Confidentiality News for June 2021

1 July 2021 No Comment

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the world, but other issues such as persistent social and racial inequalities have not disappeared. Finding solutions in an evidence-based world requires usable and precise data. Questions as to the right balance between usability and privacy do not have easy or easily accessible answers.

The ASA’s Committee on Privacy and Confidentiality’s mission is to keep track of evolving technical, policy, and legal developments and communicate with the statistical community about these issues. 

For the 2021 Joint Statistical Meetings, coming up in August, the session titled “Collecting, Protecting, and Sharing COVID-19 Data and the Stories They Tell,” organized by Committee Chair Lars Vilhuber, considers some of the issues and concerns around collecting and publishing sensitive data during the pandemic, as well as the perceptions in the overall population of these issues. Damien Desfontaines of Google and Amaç Herdağdelen of Facebook will discuss privacy protections in mobility data publication, Sarah LaRocca of Facebook will discuss issues surrounding data collection on symptoms during the pandemic, Jennifer Childs of the US Census Bureau will present views on privacy and confidentiality toward surveys, and Frederic Gerdorn will expand that to privacy attitudes to contact tracing. ASA Fellows and former committee members Alan Karr and Aleksandra Slavković of Penn State will serve as discussants.

For the biannual 2021 World Statistics Congresses this month, the session titled “Formal Privacy Methods in NSO: Challenges and Solutions,” also organized by Vilhuber, brings an international perspective to the recent advances in privacy protection, particularly from the point of view of implementations. Challenges faced and the reasons national statistical offices (NSO) have tackled these challenges will be discussed in a virtual conference accessible to North American participants. John Abowd, chief scientist at the US Census Bureau, will discuss differential privacy (DP) in the 2020 US Census of Population and Housing, and his Census Bureau colleague Andrew Foote will present the use of DP for the publication of education statistics. Gerome Miklau of Tumult Labs will discuss privacy-accuracy trade-off in a DP release of earnings statistic, while Joseph Chien of the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Jörg Drechsler of IAB Germany will discuss privacy implementations for agriculture statistics and geocoded data, respectively. 

Information about other committee activities, including webinars, can be found on the committee’s website.

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