Stanford University is set to open a new high security data center, dedicated to analyzing some of the most sensitive data gathered from Census information.

The facility will let economists, sociologists, and public health researchers tap census information which in turn could be used to help shape public policy.

While the government makes available a large portion of the demographic and economic information gained from census reports, some of the more sensitive information related to individuals and private companies is not released publicly. The new data center, which will feature several security protocol layers, will give researchers access to that information.

In an article in the Stanford University News, C. Matthew Snipp, faculty director for the Secure Data Center and director of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies on Race and Ethnicity, said researchers will be able to probe, for example, the racial makeups of neighborhoods and compare that with other societal factors such as educational performance.

“The idea is that the government could have people at places like Stanford who are dedicated to sifting through and analyzing all of this information,” he told the Stanford News. “That research gets used as a basis for policymaking. But it’s hard to do that kind of analysis in the federal system because of all the other demands they have.”

Researchers must first have their projects approved before gaining access to the secure data and the information is protected by multiple levels of security. While researchers may be able to dig down to such sensitive areas as income, religious information, and health statistics, they cannot remove data until it has been tabulated or “scrubbed” to remove personal or private details. An administrator from the Census Bureau also reviews and approves any output.

The facility is being operated as a satellite operation of a California Census Research Data Center located at the University of California-Berkeley.




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