Statistics on organizations (considered legal persons) cover all data subjects (units of analysis) other than natural persons or groups of natural persons, such as families or households. Occasionally, data for persons and organizations may be part of the same data set. For example, some surveys link information about the business
activities of sole proprietorships with demographic information about the personal characteristics of the proprietors. Other surveys link information about such organizations as hospitals or schools with data on persons served by or working in those organizations.
There are many kinds of organizations, and the differences among them often determine the level of confidentiality accorded to their data. In the commercial sector there are three legal forms of ownership: sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. Nonprofit corporations, which are exempt from income taxation, are a special group. Among the for-profit corporations, those whose shares are publicly traded are subject to special reporting requirements, and the contents of their reports (e.g., to the Securities and Exchange Commission) are generally available to the public. A subset of for-profit corporations, especially utility companies, are granted exclusive rights to particular markets; in return, their financial and other data may be subject to even greater public scrutiny.
Many companies consist of several individual establishments, at different physical locations. Although data for the company as a whole may be readily available to anyone, the same is not necessarily true for employment, payroll, production, and other data for each establishment controlled by the company.
In the public sector, the general expectation is that most information about the activities of federal, state, and local agencies and units of government will be available to all. Public access to such data is facilitated by freedom of information and sunshine laws at the federal level and in many states.