Thursday, January 05, 2006

Re: st: Protecting data sets

Fred,

I'm not aware of anything in Stata that does this and we have similar concerns regarding access to sensitive clinical information. You might consider using a file compression application that has the ability to password protect your files as a first step. You should be able to decompress and change the password at any time and you would receive the additional benefit of smaller file sizes for storage. I use Winzip (http://www.winzip.com), but I'm sure that there are a number of other applications out there for Windows and other OS's.

I know that this doesn't fully address what you would like to achieve with the distribution of your data. We'll see what the programmers have to say about your question, but the implementation of such a mechanism may be somewhat difficult. The problem is that the Stata clients on individual users' computers would have to identify the dataset as being yours so that they would know where to look for the password, check a remote location to compare the user entered password with the valid password that you've set for that six month period, and then open the file. I suspect that this would mean that Stata would have to give you access to an web account where you could host and maintain your passwords for individual datasets.

This would be a great feature for anyone using sensitive data (clinical, proprietary, etc.). I look forward to hearing whether it is something that may come about in a future version of the application.

Chris Simpkins

Research Fellow Department of Surgery The Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine

We sometimes loan our set of research stata dta files and programs we have developed to investigators to work with. We have some concern that the files could be passed on to others that shouldn't have access to them or that they might just sit on a computer and be accessible to other. It occurred to us that one way to protect files would be to have a pass word and date requirement. For example, after 6 month the dta files would not be accessible without a (changing) password (which we would have to supply). I wonder if anyone else has thought about issues such as these or if Stata Corp has some plans or ideas on the subject. Thanks, Fred Wolfe Fred Wolfe National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases Wichita, Kansas Tel (316) 263-2125 Fax (316) 263-0761 fwolfe@arthritis-research.org

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