The primary purpose of a Certificate of Confidentiality (CoC) is to allow institutions and agencies to protect identifiable and sensitive research information on the subject of a study. The main principle of the CoC is that investigators cannot be compelled to disclose any data under the protection of the certificate.


The CoC is a legal document intended to protect any sensitive personal data of an individual that is a subject of research. It is issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other US health agencies.

The certificate ensures that information provided by research subjects is not be used without their explicit permission. It allows to obtaining high level of confidentiality.

The Certificate of Confidentiality’s purpose is to protect against legal demands, for example, subpoenas and court orders, for identifiable information or characteristics of research participants. It allows researchers to refuse the disclose information in administrative, criminal, civil, or legislative proceedings. Any organization that receives the CoC has the right to refuse to comply with a court order from a judge that wants to force to disclose identifiable information about any research participant.

The CoC protects identifiable and sensitive information, such as illegal risk behavior, genetic information, mental health, sexual attitudes, and others. Any data that can provide any personal data of a protected research participant.

Researches for the CoC must ensure that all participants conform to the assurances the application. Projects that are eligible to get the Certificate of Confidentiality must be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). They gather identifiable information and the types of it that could negatively affect someone if it is disclosed. It may include such information as financial standing, insurability, employability, health data.