In order to collect sensitive information, researchers need to be able to ensure for themselves that identifiable research data will remain confidential and assure respondents that this is the case. However, neither legislatures nor courts have granted researchers an absolute privilege to protect the confidentiality of their research data. Despite this, there are several federal statutory mechanisms that can be helpful. In some cases researchers can obtain legal protection for the confidentiality of research data through a federally issued Certificate of Confidentiality as authorized by the Public Health Service Act § 301 (d), 42 U.S.C § 241(d):

The Secretary may authorize persons engaged in biomedical, behavioral, clinical, or other research (including research on mental health, including research on the use and effect of alcohol and other ...
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