Anonymity, Confidentiality and De-identified Data
Anonymity is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “of unknown name, unknown or unclear sources or authorship, without character, featureless, impersonal.” However, within the social sciences, the concept of anonymity can have a less absolute interpretation allowing for a person’s identity to be disguised by pseudonyms. Some research council funding policies encourage this practice by mandating the storage of anonymized data for future unspecified research. Yet qualitative research data can only be stripped of identifiers; it cannot be anonymized. To understand the difference between an unknown anonymous source and a disguised confidential source, it is important to consider four nuances of data collection; first, how differently the process of informed consent is enacted in quantitative and qualitative research; second, while the concept external confidentiality appears in ethical guidelines, its inverse internal confidentiality does not, for example, the failure to...
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