33. Legislation supporting microdata release is very important as highlighted by Principle 3 (see Chapter 3). There are several reasons:
- (i) to provide public confidence in the arrangements - that there are legal constraints that determine what can and cannot be done;
- (ii) to provide mutual understanding between NSOs and researchers on the arrangements;
- (iii) to provide for greater consistency in the way research proposals are treated; and
- (iv) to provide a basis for dealing with breaches.
34. The legislation need not exist in primary legislation or law. The detail may be better suited to regulations, ordinances, etc. that still have some legal impact. If legislation is not available, some other form of authorisation is essential. The reputation of the NSO is at risk if there is not some form of authority to enable the release of microdata even when anonymised.
35. It is important that the legislation (or authorisation) covers the following aspects:
- (i) what can and cannot be done and for what purposes;
- (ii) the conditions of release; and
- (iii) the consequences if these conditions are breached.
36. Case Studies 1 and 2 outline the legislation for the provision of microdata for Australia and Finland respectively.