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Federal law requires both NLS and their contractors keep personal information about you and your household completely confidential. That means no one other than approved government representatives and specially sworn in contractors can access your personal information. This pledge of confidentiality further requires that your data can only be used for statistical purposes and that your information will not be disclosed in identifiable form to anyone not authorized to see it.

Anyone breaking this law may face severe penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

OMB Procedures

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is responsible for setting overall statistical policy among Federal agencies. OMB reviews questionnaires and data collection procedures that Federal agencies use when collecting information from 10 or more respondents. These OMB reviews are very thorough.  The process from when the NLS submits an OMB information collection request until OMB approves the data collection typically takes 7 months or more and includes multiple layers of review within BLS and at OMB. These reviews are helpful in improving survey quality and ensuring that agencies treat respondents properly.  Moreover it provides OMB with information about the NLS data collection and how we are protecting respondent confidentiality.

Federal Laws

Two Federal laws govern policies and procedures for protecting respondent confidentiality and obtaining informed consent for NLS Surveys: the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA) of 2002. 

Privacy Act

The Privacy Act of 1974 is a federal law that governs our collection and use of records we maintain on you. Under the Privacy Act, Federal agencies may not disclose information without consent (unless certain exceptions apply to the disclosure.) The Privacy Act also allows NLS respondents to be protected against unwarranted invasion of their privacy resulting from the disclosure of their personal information.


CIPSEA protects the confidentiality of participants by ensuring that individuals who provide information to NLS will not have that information disclosed in identifiable form to anyone not authorized to have it. 

In addition, CIPSEA ensures that the information respondents provide will be used only for statistical purposes. Thus CIPSEA is important because it specifically protects data collected from respondents for statistical purposes under a pledge of confidentiality. 

In addition, CIPSEA includes fines and penalties for any knowing and willful disclosure of specific information to unauthorized persons by any officer, employee, or agent of BLS.  BLS officers, employees, and agents are subject to criminal penalties for the mishandling of confidential data, and the fines and penalties under CIPSEA.

Data Handling and Network Security

NLS Contractors undergo a background check when they are hired.  Contractors then are required to sign a legal document stating that they will not disclose the identities of survey respondents to anyone who does not work on the NLS program and therefore not legally authorized to have your information. In fact, no one at BLS has access to information about respondents' identities, and only a few contractor staff members who need such information to carry out their job duties have access to information about respondents' identities.  Every year all NLS and contractor staff take special training on protecting respondent confidentiality.  IT staff take additional training on computer security.

Some researchers are granted special access to data files that include geographic information, but only after those researchers undergo a thorough application process at BLS and sign a written agreement legally requiring them to protect the confidentiality of respondents. In no case are researchers provided with information on the personal identities of respondents.

Network Security

An important part of protecting respondent confidentiality is the careful handling and storage of data.  From the beginning of the data collection process through the final storage of information, NLS protects your data following National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines and federal requirements. The security of our systems is a top priority, and we continually refine our approach to address emerging threats and position ourselves to identify and prevent possible cyberthreats.

Detailed information about these arrangements is not provided to the public to prevent anyone from circumventing these safeguards.

Last Modified Date: January 19, 2021