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What is considered sensitive information?

Sensitive information is data that must be protected for the privacy or security of an individual, group, or organisation. The kinds of sensitive information most likely to be included in PhD theses are:

  • Commercial (trade secrets or information which could damage commercial interests)
  • Health and safety (information which could damage the health and/or safety of an individual)
  • Information provided in confidence
  • Personal (as defined by the Data Protection Act 2018 - GDPR)
  • Culturally sensitive material (information or arguments which some cultural groups might find offensive or upsetting)
  • Content referring to legal cases

Sponsors may also impose confidentiality clauses such as non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). If you have signed any agreements with commercial sponsors or funders, please ensure you thoroughly check the terms to which you have agreed.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 sets out the types of sensitive information to which legally-enforceable restrictions may be applied. The University of Cambridge is bound by this Act. It may decide to apply restrictions to other types of information, including theses deposited in the University Library or Departmental and Faculty libraries, but they are not legally binding if not falling under the Act.


My thesis contains sensitive information - what are my options?

Redact the information

If your thesis contains a small amout of sensitive information, you have the option of redacting it. The redacted version can be made Open Access and the full version will be held in the repository and unable to view. However, please be aware that the full version of your thesis will still be available to view for visitors to Cambridge University Library under this option, so if this option is not suitable for your thesis, you might wish to consider choosing the Time Limited Restricted access level instead.

Choose the right access level

If your thesis contains a large amount of sensitive information, you might wish to consider choosing either the Time Limited Restricted or Indefinitely Restricted access levels. See our page showing access to Cambridge theses under the options available.

Get consent

If the option is available to you, you have could ask the parties concerned for consent to include the sensitive information in you thesis and make it available. We recommend you keep copies of correspondence giving consent in writing and upload this as evidence when you upload your thesis.


Where can I obtain further advice?

If your questions have not been answered on this page, please email for further advice.



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