Confidential means that the investigator can (or could) identify individuals who participated in a study, perhaps through a code. Although the identities may be recorded, data can be kept confidential if they are carefully coded, if face sheets and consent documents are separated from survey instruments, if computer sheets and other papers are properly disposed, if access to identifiable data is limited, if research staff are educated about the importance of protecting confidentiality, and if records are stored in secured locations. More elaborate procedures may be appropriate for research involving sensitive data that may involve a greater risk should confidentiality be breached, and investigators may want to seek Certificates of Confidentiality to protect such data from subpoena.
Unless federal statutes mandate this confidentiality confidential surveys that are not anonymous are not eligible for exemption using these criteria. Confidential surveys may still be eligible for exemption if any disclosure of the human subjects' responses outside the research could not possibly place them at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to their financial standing, employability, or reputation.