All information supplied to the CSO is treated as strictly confidential. The Statistics Act, 1993 sets stringent confidentiality standards: Information collected may be used only for statistical purposes, and no details that might be related to an identifiable person or business undertaking may be divulged to any other government department or body.
These national statistical confidentiality provisions are reinforced by the following EU legislation:
Further details are outlined in the CSO's Code of Practice on Statistical Confidentiality.
This Code of Practice relates to the protection of the confidentiality of the individual information relating to persons and undertakings collected by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The functions of the Office are set out in the Statistics Act, 1993:
"the collection, compilation, extraction and dissemination for statistical purposes of information relating to economic, social and general activities and conditions in the State".
To this end, the Office receives information on individual persons, households, business and other undertakings. This information is obtained either directly in statutory or voluntary inquiries or indirectly from the administrative records of public authorities.
All individual information obtained by the CSO is treated as strictly confidential. The information is used solely for statistical purposes.
Results are published in aggregate form and great care is taken to ensure that details relating to an identifiable person or undertaking are not inadvertently divulged.
This confidentiality is guaranteed by law.
The CSO is a separate Office attached to the Department of the Taoiseach. This underlines the complete independence of the office and its Director General in the discharge of their statistical duties.
The CSO operates under the provisions of the Statistics Act, 1993.This continues and reinforces the confidentiality provisions of the earlier statistical legislation and imposes heavy penalties for the misuse of information collected by the Office.
The Act explicitly states that:
- for the purposes of a prosecution for an offence under this Act;
- to officers of statistics in the course of their duties under this Act;
- for the purposes of recording such information solely for the use of the Office in such form and manner as is provided for by a contract in writing made by the Director General which protects its confidentiality to his satisfaction.
The Office may, for statistical purposes only, assign codes derived from information collected under this Act classifying undertakings listed in the administrative systems of other public authorities by economic activity and size (persons engaged) categories.
The Taoiseach may by order prescribe such further prohibitions on the disclosure of identifiable records or information obtained under this Act or the repealed enactments for such periods as may be prescribed.
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require any person or undertaking to provide information in relation to a matter on which information was sought in circumstances that would entitle the person or undertaking to decline to give the information in a civil proceeding in any court or on the grounds of privilege.
The Statistics Act, 1993 specifies the very limited circumstances, listed in the preceding section, in which identifiable information collected by the CSO may be divulged to another person or body.
The Act also allows individual data to be made available for statistical analysis purposes in such form that it cannot be directly or indirectly related to an identifiable person or undertaking. This is a standard practice internationally.
Legal Provisions also exist for the transmission of confidential statistical data in anonymised form to Eurostat - the Statistical Office of the EU - for the purpose of compiling aggregate Community statistics. This transmission is permitted under the terms of an EU Regulation that imposes the very stringent obligations on Eurostat to protect the confidentiality of the data provided.
Confidential information is transferred in anonymous form to the Statistical Office of the EU (Eurostat) for the compilation of aggregate Community statistics under the protective provisions of Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 as amended by Regulation (EU) No 2015/759. Under further European and Irish legislation, non-anonymised Balance of Payments related statistical microdata may be transmitted by the CSO to the European Central Bank.
Although underpinned by law it is essential that respondents to statistical inquiries (and the persons or undertakings for which statistical information is obtained from administrative sources) are fully assured that the CSO protects the confidentiality of the particulars relating to them and that they are used only for statistical purposes. Unless people are certain that confidentiality guarantees are kept there would be little likelihood of high response by the public or business to CSO inquiries.
The CSO has a long-standing reputation for protecting the information it collects. Concerns about data protection are, however, increasing and it is vitally important that the CSO maintains the trust of all sectors of the community in this regard. This Code of Practice is intended to reinforce existing assurances.