Definition: Formal identifier

Statistical methodologies

Any variable or set of variables which is structurally unique for every population unit, for example a population registration number. If the formal identifier is known to the intruder, identification of a target individual is directly possible for him or her, without the necessity to have additional knowledge before studying the microdata. Some combinations of variables such as name and address are pragmatic formal identifiers, where non-unique instances are empirically possible, but with negligible probability.
ESSNet SDC (Network of Excellence in the European Statistical System in the field of Statistical Disclosure Control), under the coordination of Anco HUNDEPOOL, "Handbook on Statistical Disclosure Control", version 1.2 (2010 Edition)

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