The Notion of Circle of Trust


In context of the DwB project the notion of a circle of trust was outlined to refer to the need to create circumstances where different parties, such as research data centres and data archives or universities, can rely on each other. Mutual trust is needed for sharing microdata services, i.e. exchanging microdata or providing access to confidential microdata. A concept for basic requirements is necessary for the data providers, and essential for transnational microdata access, but relevant also for the researchers seeking access to data.

When creating a circle of trust, each member joining the circle should be accepted according to the same rules and conditions which are approved by all members. These would cover confidentiality rules and security requirements, but also competence and legal aspects. There would also be set preconditions for the institutions themselves or for technologies providing the access.

Measures needed to gain trust among the actors and to establish a circle of trust:

  • shared best practices
  • collection and documentation of rules and protocols for transparency
  • cooperation agreement
  • harmonised contracts for microdata access
  • guidelines for the treatment of microdata requests
  • catalogue of rules to check which institution can be approved to access microdata
  • Researchers’ Passport
  • security concept and accreditation guidelines for safe centres
  • list of security and user demands for a remote access system
  • anonymisation concept for scientific use files
  • rules and protocols for the transmission of microdata
  • guidelines for statistical disclosure methods and output checking, and
  • common understanding of responsibilities and similarities.

The notion of Circle of Trust was presented and discussed in the Second European Data Access Forum, EDAF in March 2015. The above descripton is adopted from the introduction to the concept by M. Brandt (Destatis).

More Information

» Read more and listen to the audio recordings on the EDAF event page under Session 4 - Panel Session: How Useful is the Notion of ‘Circle of Trust’? A Vision for the Future.
» A report by the "OECD Expert group for international collaboration on microdata access" contains more detailed information on the concept (see Part II, p. 60).


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