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IBGE is irrevocably committed to data protection and confidentiality

Section: IBGE | Carmen Nery

March 23, 2022 02h00 PM | Last Updated: March 25, 2022 07h53 PM

LGPD does not exempt citizens from providing statistical information and does not require protection measures beyond the ones already adopted by the IBGE – Photo: Licia Rubinstein/ IBGE News Agency

The General Data Protection Law (LGPD, in Portuguese) does not exempt Brazilian citizens and companies to provide the IBGE with information for statistical purposes, not even about their addresses and geolocation. A regulation that guarantees confidentiality of data collected by the IBGE is part of the legal framework that regulates the activities of the Institute and there is no conflict with LGPD.

Francisco Garrido, head of the São Paulo state branch, says the IBGE needs proper conditions to keep fulfilling its institutional mission of portraying Brazil, for the sake of the entire Brazilian society, whose members should be fully aware that the LGPD does not restrain IBGE activities. “It is important to make it clear for society that the rise of LGPD does not interfere with the obligation of providing the IBGE with statistical information,” Mr. Garrido says.

The IBGE operated within the law, most specifically Law no 5,534/1968, known as Statistical Confidentiality Law, and in accordance with practices adopted by most countries and with recommendations from the International Statistical Institute. Not to mention the 85 years of experience in providing high-quality official statistics, always ensuring the confidentiality of individual information, thus making the institute worthy of public trust and capable of rendering services with impartiality and integrity.

The president of the IBGE’s Confidentiality Committee, Maria do Carmo Dias Bueno, explains that the Confidentiality Law obliges all residents of the national territory to provide information for the production of official statistics. She explains that the issues in the LGPD do not relate to surveys elaborated by the IBGE, since the Institute has a legal duty, of public interest, and operates within the scope of the LGPD itself, according to article 7, items II, III, IV.

“The article provides that ‘permission of the owner of data is not required for the treatment of personal data in the conditions within which the IBGE operates: (i) compliance with legal obligation (article 1 of Law no. 5 534/1968); (ii) input indispensable for the elaboration of public policies (article 2 of Law no. 5 878/1973); and (iii) executed for studies of survey institutes (article 3, III, of Law no. 5 878/1973)’ ,” Ms. Bueno explains.

Wolney Cogoy de Menezes, coordinator of the IBGE’s National Address List for Statistical Purposes (CNEFE), says that Article 1 of Law no. 5 534/1968 provides that no citizen is allowed to refuse answering a survey like the Population Census. “LGPD will not revoke the Confidentiality Law. This law deals with the imposition of fines, but the objective of the IBGE is to raise population’s awareness and create a favorable environment so that the citizen can volunteer to answer the survey, once that also ensures better quality of information,” Mr. Wolney highlights.

He says that providing statistical information is a matter of citizenship and of the awareness that there is a positive effect on public policies. “The second important aspect of Law 5 534/1968 is that, in return, the IBGE treats the information collected with full confidentiality and the information will not be used for administrative, fiscal or legal purposes.”

The IBGE has made a commitment to keep data protection and confidentiality since its foundation, in 1936. The Institute also follows the UN’s Fundamental Principal of Official StatisticsThe necessity of a group of principles to guide official statistics became evident by the end of the 1980’s, and the Conference of European Statisticians developed and adopted the Fundamental Principal of Official Statistics in 1992.

In April 1994, the UN’s Statistical Commission adopted the same group of principles – with a revised preamble – approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in January 2014. The 10 principles are: 1 – Relevance, impartiality and equal access; 2 – Professionalism; 3 – Accountability; 4 – Prevention of misuse; 5 – Cost-effectiveness; 6 – Confidentiality; 7 – Legislation; 8 – National coordination; 9 – International coordination; 10 – International statistical cooperation.

“LGPD is a recent law and the population is not yet well informed about it, so people have a defensive reaction, but everything will get better as time goes by. Citizens have the right to have their data protected, but also the obligation of providing information for statistical purposes, and the IBGE has the obligation of ensuring confidentiality of such information,” Mr. Menezes highlights.

He explains that, among the information collected for the Census are the address and personal data of the residents living there, their names, for example. “These pieces of data are stored in completely different environments and it is not possible to put both data together without permission from each area,” says the CNEFE coordinator.

Many procedures are followed to keep these data secret, and the first part of this statistical production process counts on the cooperation of the population and of entities that provide information to researchers from the Institute. All the servants and workers sign a confidentiality term, by means of which they commit to keeping secret all individual information they have access to.

Those who go into the field for collection have special training and receive a booklet with guidelines on a safe approach of the informant. Data collection can take place in many ways, for example, with visits of an IBGE worker – carrying his IBGE identification card – by means of online forms or telephone calls from a call center.

During each interview, data are registered in form with electronically controlled access, the mobile data collection device. Even in case of an unexpected occurrence, for example, if the device is lost or stolen, no one from outside the Institute can access its content, because data transmission is programmed for the IBGE only. Information is encrypted when transferred on the web, and that prevents the access by possible invaders.

The technology used in the surveys helps eliminate the risk of losing confidentiality and leads to an economy of resources, since a big amount of printed material and store areas used to be necessary to keep and control information.

After an automated revision and verification by technicians, in order to identify failure in data collection, individual information is aggregated into a second database, where it starts to be tabulated as statistical figures. In this process, each answer informed loses connection with the person or entity of origin and turns into a number and nothing more.

The identity of informants, such as name and address, is then encrypted, including for the IBGE technicians, in this first step, forming an anonymous database, microdata. For household surveys, such as the Population Census and Continuous PNAD, this database is made publicly available, but only specialists in the statistical field have the tools and knowledge to use it.

Statistical data are then combined and analyzed with the objective of producing relevant knowledge about the Brazilian reality. Complete information completes the cycle being released to Society as texts, tables and infographics and many other products that form the result of surveys. Among these are the official publication, the press release and pieces of news available in the official channels of the Institute.

About our commitment, responsibilities and methodology 

"With the advent of the General Data Protection Law (LGPD), we have tried, as an additional effort, added to our experience in data collection in the field, to adopt and approach to engage the respondents of our surveys and partner entities in the production of our surveys. We emphasize that the IBGE, throughout its history, has done its work and fulfilled its mission by observing and guaranteeing what the LGPD provides for today. Indeed, the Institute had long been dealing with the production of statistics in compliance with the information confidentiality law to protect data of natural and legal persons.

Nevertheless, despite the adoption of some actions and initiatives of local teams, our perception, unfortunately, is that there is a growing number of refusals, allegations and supposedly valid justifications by respondents of household surveys, notary offices of REGCI surveys, building managers and condominium management companies - which are essential in the support and provision of information for updates in CNEFE and PNAD C. For this year, especially in this special year marked by the Census, it is so important to increase knowledge in favor of the idea that our data collection activities do not contradict the recommendations/provisions presented by LGPD.

Given the current context, we need urgent institutional mobilization aiming at clearing information about both laws (LGPD and Confidentiality) both for our internal audience and for our informants, institutional partners and society in general. It is necessary to make efforts towards better understanding of the coverage, commitment, specificity, responsibility and methodology adopted in the treatment of data collected. All that is necessary in the sense of reaffirming that, added to statistical confidentiality, is the work of the IBGE, properly and fully in compliance with what is provided for in the current LGPD."

José Renato Braga de Almeida
Head of the IBGE State Branch in Rio Grande do Sul (UE/RS)

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