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An Improved Formulation of the Disclosure Auditing Problem for Secondary Cell Suppression

Jacco Daalmans(a),(*), Ton de Waal(a)

Transactions on Data Privacy 3:3 (2010) 217 - 251

Abstract, PDF

(a) Statistics Netherlands; P. O. Box 24500; 2490 HA The Hague.

e-mail:j.daalmans @cbs.nl; t.dewaal @cbs.nl


Statistical agencies have to ensure that respondents' private information cannot be revealed from the tables they release. A well-known protection method is cell suppression, where values that provide too much information are left out from the table to be published. In a first step, sensitive cell values are suppressed. This is called primary suppression. In a second step, other values are suppressed as well to exclude that primarily suppressed values can be re-calculated from the values published in the table. This second step is called secondary cell suppression.

In this article we explain that the problem of checking whether a pattern of secondary cell suppressions is safe for release or not is generally described in a slightly inconsistent way in the literature. We illustrate with examples that the criteria that are often applied to judge whether a table can be safely published or not do not always give satisfactory results. Furthermore, we present a new criterion and explore some of its consequences. The new criterion is an extension of the well-known (p,q)-prior-posterior rule. This extension is for aggregations of suppressed cells for which a value can be derived from the table. Finally, we provide a method to apply the new criterion in practice.

* Corresponding author.

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Vicenç Torra, Last modified: 00 : 25 December 12 2014.