Privacy protection and data security

In order to be able to produce the highest quality statistics, Statistics Norway has access to public administrative registers. Privacy protection and data security are therefore a key focus in Statistics Norway, ensuring that personal data does not fall into the wrong hands.

Statistics Norway is subject to the provisions of the Personal Data Act with regard to responsible processing of personal data. Statistics Norway has a dedicated data protection officer, who is approved by the Norwegian Data Protection Authority. Statistics Norway complies with the Authority’s security requirements for processing sensitive personal data, and the organisation and routines to protect our data are devised in line with these. All Statistics Norway employees must sign a confidentiality agreement, and breaching this agreement is a punishable offence.

Linking and identifying personal data

Statistics Norway organises its own data into different registers. This means that all information relating to a person is not assembled in one place, such as a folder.

Pursuant to the Personal Data Act, statistics are exempt from an individual’s right to access data since the personal data is used exclusively for statistical purposes and processing has no direct bearing on the registered party. This means you do not have any right to know what data is held on you in Statistics Norway.

Statistics are not data on the individual

Statistics Norway publishes statistics on most parts of Norwegian society. In many cases, these statistics are based on information from registers. However, we never disclose information about individual statistical units. Statistics are made up of data on groups of persons/businesses, not on identifiable statistical units.

When Statistics Norway publishes statistics, we ensure that no information about identifiable natural or legal persons (usually economic entities) can be revealed using the statistics. To this end, we can suppress/hide table cells that are based on just a small number of observations, for example fewer than 3. Suppressed values are replaced with a symbol denoting that figures cannot be given: «:».

In frequency tables, we can also round off low frequencies, such as 1 or 2 to 0 or 3. In such cases, tables should be summed up correctly, and there must be as few errors as possible at a higher level. Other cells must then also be suppressed in such a way that it is not possible to calculate the values we do not want to publish.

Magnitude tables are tables where cell values show total numerical quantities (normally monetary sizes or other amounts for economic entities). Here we use the dominance rule to prevent disclosure of contributions from single units. This means that the two largest contributions to a cell total must not exceed a certain percentage of the total in the cell. This percentage must be kept secret in order not to undermine the rule.

In order to properly build the statistics, it may occasionally be necessary to publish statistics that reveal information about individual units. It is an absolute requirement that such disclosure is not harmful to natural persons or will not cause unreasonable harm to legal persons.

We sometimes provide individual data for research and public planning purposes, but this is mainly in the form of de-identified or anonymous data that cannot be traced back to any individual. In exceptional cases, it may be appropriate to supply identifiable individual data for research purposes, but the researcher and Statistics Norway must receive advance approval for this from the Norwegian Data Protection Authority.

Data from questionnaires

Statistics Norway also collects data directly from individuals through questionnaires. Written information is always provided to respondents prior to any such survey, with details of what the survey is about, what other data will be linked to the data collected and what the data will be used for.

Statistics Norway treats all statistics users the same

The data on individuals held in Statistics Norway cannot be accessed by any other national institution. Statistics Norway treats all statistics users the same, irrespective of whether they are a public institution, a business or an individual. Statistics Norway may hold information on individuals but this does not mean that anyone else in the government is privy to the same information.

Statistics aimed at understanding Norwegian society

Statistics Norway’s statistics have played a key role in understanding Norwegian society for more than a hundred years, and have been a much needed guide to those governing society, among others. Data from public registers is needed to produce high quality statistics, such as the population statistics, education statistics and employment statistics. Even the name statistics are dependent on access to the population register.