Blog

Cover image for Transforming the England & Wales Census with Cantabular

Transforming the England & Wales Census with Cantabular

This autumn the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) has turned on Cantabular to power the production of outputs from the 2021 England and Wales census. This marks an important milestone in a 5 year journey that started with a simple question from the ONS: “Could we build a system to generate tables of census data on demand with privacy protections applied in real-time?”.

JSM 2022: Presenting our work on the 2021 England and Wales census

We are presenting a poster case study of our work with the Office for National Statistics on the 2021 England and Wales census for the Joint Statistical Meeting Conference 2022 organised by The American Statistical Association.

Flexible publication of metadata with GraphQL

Last year we added a new capability to Cantabular to allow dissemination of structured metadata alongside real-time creation of safe, cross-tabulations from large datasets that the rest of Cantabular focuses on.

Exploring automated output checking with OpenSAFELY

Over the summer months, we had a few conversations with the interesting folk at the University of Oxford DataLab who have been building OpenSAFELY—an open source, transparent platform for secure analysis of electronic health records—to see if we could integrate our automated output checking capability into their systems, to help speed the process of release of research outputs.

Demonstrating Cell Key Perturbation in Python

Over the past few months, the Sensible Code team has put together an example implementation of the cell key method, a perturbation method that adds noise to frequency tables in order to protect against differencing attacks. It is one of the disclosure control algorithms in our product Cantabular. This example has been written using Python in a Jupyter notebook.

ICES conference video: Using Cantabular to explore and visualise company data

We recently attended the International Conference on Establishment Statistics. We had an interesting time hearing about some of the challenges statistical organisations, particularly in the US, have with protecting and disseminating establishment data and the move to differentially private methodologies.

Republishing the historic 1911 Irish census as an interactive dataset

Today we are releasing a new public website that makes the returns from the 1911 Irish census available as a preliminary statistical release to be queried by anyone. All kinds of cross-tabulations and analysis of this data that were previously impossible are now easily accessible as open data through our user interface and API.

Event video: 1911 Irish Census and Technology: bringing the past, present and future together

On 29th April, 2021 we held a virtual event: 1911 Irish census and technology: bringing past, present and future together. 165 historians, statisticians and archivists from around the world joined us on Zoom to see and hear about our work turning the historic 1911 Irish census records from the National Archives of Ireland into a rich real-time dataset.

Guest post: Cantabular: a new use-case for OpenStreetMap

A guest post by Ciáran Staunton. OpenStreetMap is not merely a map of roads, buildings, land uses, coastal areas and mountain tops. OpenStreetMap contains many hidden treasures, which take the form of wonderful and obscure boundaries. These have been added by Ireland’s OpenStreetMap contributors, in the hope that such things will provide some context to places, but also in the hope that one day they could be directly re-used by those that may wish to download them.

Realising the historical value of the Irish Censuses of Population

Since 1841 the periodic Census of Population has been the cornerstone of official statistics in Ireland, particularly in the context of providing comprehensive information on demographic and social conditions. While some efforts were made to undertake censuses prior to 1841 they are generally considered to have been of poor quality for various reasons.

Unlocking the value in historic records with Cantabular

At the end of April we at Sensible Code are going to run an event to demonstrate our privacy-preserving software Cantabular using the 1911 Ireland census—the last all Ireland census—to show how modern technologies have the potential to unlock the value hidden in historic records, for the benefit of academics, researchers, statistical organisations and wider society.

Automating disclosure checks with our Disclosure Rules Language

Last week we released a new version of Cantabular with a big new feature: a disclosure rules language. The disclosure rules language, or DRL, is a tool to help statisticians automate decisions about table publication which they might previously have made using manual analysis techniques.

ONS hackday Census data unplugged

We’d planned a hack day at the Office for National Statistics for our work on Census 2021 towards the end of May. But the arrival of Covid-19 meant we had to pivot to making the event virtual.

Go Cantabular!

We decided to use the Go programming language (also known as Golang) to build Cantabular and have found it a great fit. It is compact, readable, secure and fast. A perfect combination for a strategic product handling large amounts of sensitive data.

Cantabular product launch

Our team here at Sensible Code have been busy for a few years working on an innovative privacy preserving technology called Cantabular. Cantabular uses highly performant implementations of disclosure control algorithms to protect data in real time as a user or researcher makes a query.

Press release: ONS UK selects Cantabular for Census 2021

The UK-based Office for National Statistics has selected Belfast company Sensible Code and its privacy preserving technology Cantabular for disseminating confidential Census 2021 data.

Modernising statistics — keeping data safe

Statistics professionals within public sector agencies take great care in how they process and protect personal data and this is reflected in the trust and respect they enjoy from their customers and the public at large. GDPR has thrown a further spotlight on governance around data confidentiality.