California Health Survey

Assurance of Confidentiality

California law, the University of California, and several government human subject protection committees, require that no personal information be released that could be used to identify an individual participant in the California Health Survey.
The California Information Practices Act (section 1798.24) requires that the data collected in this survey can be used only for statistical research and reporting purposes. Any release of personal information violates this law. The person responsible for any unauthorized release is subject to civil action and penalties for invasion of privacy under California Civil Code, Section 1798.53.

How We Protect Your Confidentiality

The California Health Survey project works hard to protect personal information. In addition to following very strict administrative and computer security procedures, we take a number of special precautions to protect the personal identity of survey participants:

  • When the survey is completed, the survey company separates all personal contact information (name, address, telephone number, birth date, etc.) from the answers to the survey questions that are to be used for research. No researcher ever sees this personal contact information. Contact information is destroyed at the end of the survey.
  • Two project committees, the Data Disclosure Advisory Committee and the Data Disclosure Review Committee, meet regularly to make sure that stringent policies and procedures are effectively protecting the confidentiality of survey participants.
  • Personal identifying information (such as birth month, country of birth, specific ethnicity) is not included in publicly released records. Sensitive information, such as mental health care, is also kept confidential and not publicly released. No specific geographic information, such as county or zip code, is included in the public records. If necessary, minor alterations are deliberately made to the information so that no researcher can accurately identify a person with some unique characteristic. Before making any records publicly available, extensive statistical analyses are conducted to make sure that there is no risk of releasing information that could be used to identify an individual survey participant.
  • We have also obtained a Certificate of Confidentiality from the National Institutes of Health to protect your privacy. With a Certificate of Confidentiality, the researchers cannot be forced to disclose information that may identify you, even by a court subpoena, in any federal, state, or local civil, criminal, administrative, legislative, or other proceedings. 
  •  We keep all confidential information in a secure location called the Data Access Center. Researchers who want to use that information must apply for approval to the project's Data Disclosure Review Committee and to an official review board designated to protect the rights of research participants. Only if a researcher's project is approved can that researcher work through the secure Data Access Center. Only statistical results can be taken out of the secure Data Access Center. Before any researcher obtains results from their analyses, the Data Access Center manager must review and approve it to make sure that nothing in those results could be used to identify anyone who participated in the survey.