Protecting Privacy and Transforming COVID-19 Case Surveillance Datasets for Public Use

by   Brian Lee, et al.

Objectives: Federal open data initiatives that promote increased sharing of federally collected data are important for transparency, data quality, trust, and relationships with the public and state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) partners. These initiatives advance understanding of health conditions and diseases by providing data to more researchers, scientists, and policymakers for analysis, collaboration, and valuable use outside CDC responders. This is particularly true for emerging conditions such as COVID-19 where we have much to learn and have evolving data needs. Since the beginning of the outbreak, CDC has collected person-level, de-identified data from jurisdictions and currently has over 8 million records, increasing each day. This paper describes how CDC designed and produces two de-identified public datasets from these collected data. Materials and Methods: Data elements were included based on the usefulness, public request, and privacy implications; specific field values were suppressed to reduce risk of reidentification and exposure of confidential information. Datasets were created and verified for privacy and confidentiality using data management platform analytic tools as well as R scripts. Results: Unrestricted data are available to the public through and restricted data, with additional fields, are available with a data use agreement through a private repository on Practice Implications: Enriched understanding of the available public data, the methods used to create these data, and the algorithms used to protect privacy of de-identified individuals allow for improved data use. Automating data generation procedures allows greater and more timely sharing of data.


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