About CURF Microdata

click here to apply to ABS for microdata access

What is a CURF?
A Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) is a file of responses to ABS surveys or censuses that have had specific identifying information about persons and organisations confidentialised. CURFs contain very detailed information for each individual record - a record can be a person, a business, a family, household or a job for example. CURFs are a type of microdata.

There are three different kinds of CURFs:

Basic CURFs - the least detailed CURF type. The level of detail is designed to minimise the risk of disclosure. Users can access basic CURFs in their own environment (via a CD-ROM or DVD). Under CURF production standards, individual data items in basic CURFs are likely to be reported at broad levels.

Expanded CURFs - more detailed CURFs. Expanded CURFs are accessible only in the secure RADL (Remote Access Data Laboratory) and ABSDL (Australian Bureau of Statistics Data Laboratory) environments. They contain finer levels of detail than basic CURFs. For example, where a basic CURF might report an age classification in five-yearly increments, an expanded file may include data against each year. The RADL prevents a large part of the CURF coming into contact with external databases, by restricting the amount and nature of information which can be viewed freely, and outside of a restricted environment.

Specialist CURFs - may be produced to serve specific approved statistical purposes for a particular customer, with the cost to produce the CURF fully cost recovered from the customer. Specialist CURFs may include data items and levels of detail not otherwise disseminated, or may be configured in other ways responding to particular user needs. Production of Specialist CURFs is dependent on availability of ABS resources.

For information about microdata systems, CURFs and other products, see Access modes and levels of detail.

Why is microdata confidentialised?
The Census and Statistics Act includes a legislative guarantee to respondents that their confidentiality will be protected. This is fundamental to the trust the Australian public has in the ABS, and that trust is in turn fundamental to the excellent quality of ABS information. Without that trust, survey respondents may be less forthcoming or truthful in answering our questionnaires.

For more information on confidentiality, see the Confidentiality Information Series from the National Statistical Service web page.

How are microdata confidentialised?
The most basic of the techniques employed by the ABS involves removing all identifying information, such as names and addresses. Additionally, the data items that are most likely to enable identification of unit records are only released in broad categories. For example, while survey questionnaires may capture your home or business address, microdata may only be released at the State or Territory level.

For more information, see 'Avoiding inadvertent Disclosure' and 'Microdata' on our web page How the ABS keeps your information confidential.

How much does microdata cost?
Microdata access is priced in accordance with ABS Pricing Policy and Commonwealth Cost Recovery Guidelines. Access to CURFs is charged per organisation not per person. Additional users of CURFs within an organisation do not incur additional charges. For information on prices and how to pay, see Microdata prices.

How do I access the CURF?
CURFs are available on CD-ROM for Basic CURFs or via the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) and the DataLab for Expanded CURFs. Not all CURFs are available in both formats. For a full list of available datasets, see Available microdata.

To apply for CURFs, click on the button at the top of this page. A snapshot of the application process can be found on the How to apply for microdata page. CURF applications are completed online using the ABS MiCRO system. Customers will be required to agree to terms and conditions of use. You should also read the Responsible Use of ABS Microdata user guide to learn more about using microdata appropriately. For further information email microdata.access@abs.gov.au. The ABS privacy policy outlines how the ABS handles any personal information that you provide to us.