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Human Subjects Division (HSD)


Certificates of Confidentiality

A Certificate of Confidentiality is a legal document that federal agencies issue to researchers to protect the privacy and welfare of subjects by preventing the release of identifiable and sensitive information about subjects who are participating in a research project.

Certificates of Confidentiality allow researchers to refuse to disclose identifying and sensitive information obtained as part of research, under most circumstances. This protection against most types of forced disclosure reduces the risk of adverse consequences for subjects who are participating in research that involves the collection of identifiable and sensitive information.

Change Notes

  • Noted 03/24/2011 @ 12:45pm
    Minor wording changes.
    - selsayed

Related Questions And Answers

  • Confidential or Anonymous?

    Anonymity and confidentiality are not the same.


    When data are anonymous, they are not linked to the identity of individual subjects in any way that would make it possible to connect the information to the individual from whom it came. Anonymous data do NOT have direct identifiers like names, addresses, clinic or hospital number, Social Security Number, or insurance agency numbers.

    Data that are linked to subjects via a CODE are NOT anonymous.

    When data are confidential, there is a link between data and the individuals who provide it, but the link is obscured by coding or other procedures so that even someone who has access to the raw data cannot identify a subject without also having access to the link between the subject code and the subject\'s identity.


    When participation is anonymous, it is impossible to know whether or not an individual participated in a study.

    When participation is confidential, the study participation of a specific individual is recorded, but cannot be known by anyone except the researcher and authorized research staff who have legitimate access to participation records.