Sweden has been collecting data about its population in a structured way over a long period. This has been possible, and still is, because of our system of using unique personal identity numbers (“personnummer”).
A main rule in Swedish public administration is public access to information, which means that data collected and held within the public sector shall be made available to the general public on demand. There are a number of laws and ordinances that regulate the conditions on which a researcher may access register data, and how such data must be handled.
Limitations on access to Swedish register data due to confidentiality
Despite the main rule being public access to information, there are some data that are worthy of special protection, and must be kept confidential. The confidentiality of such data must be regulated in law. The confidentiality legislation contains provisions on when confidentiality may be breached in some cases, i.e. under certain conditions it may be possible to access the data, despite their confidentiality.
The Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act is national, which means that even if there is a confidentiality-breaching rule that permits data to be disclosed, the data cannot be disclosed to anyone who is outside Sweden.
In addition to the public access and confidentiality provisions, there are several sets of regulations that impact on how register data may be used and shall be handled in research. These regulations are primarily intended to protect the personal integrity of the persons whose data are used, as well as ethical rules, including requirements for ethical review.
Find out more
For further information about what is required for you, as a researcher, to access and use Swedish register data in your particular research, please contact an university or higher education institution in Sweden.