Navigation Links
Anonymization remains a powerful approach to protecting the privacy of health information
Date:12/8/2011

OTTAWA, ON December 8, 2011 De-identification of health data has been crucial for all types of health research, but recent articles in medical and scientific literature have suggested that de-identification methods do not sufficiently protect the identities of individuals and can be easily reversed. A recent review conducted by researchers at CHEO entitled "A Systematic Review of Re-identification Attacks on Health Data" and published in PLoS ONE, did not uncover evidence to support this. "If re-identification rates were as high as some of these articles suggest, it would be worrisome," says lead author, Dr. Khaled El-Emam. "But our review did not support these claims there is no broad empirical support for a failure of anonymization."

Such a failure would have significant policy implications. For example, it may become necessary to obtain patient consent before data is released (a time-consuming undertaking), incentive to de-identify would decline, and the likelihood of breaches would increase. For this reason, Dr. El-Emam and his team conducted a review that set out to characterize known re-identification attacks on health data and compare them to attacks on other types of data, calculate the number of records correctly identified in these attacks, and assess whether the results indicate a weakness in current de-identification methods.

After identifying 14 relevant studies and analyzing them in detail, the group was unable to find convincing evidence that existing de-identification methods are not effective. Few of these attacks involved health data which is naturally protected more strenuously. Secondly, many of the attacks were on small databases with large confidence intervals around their success rates. Most importantly, the majority of re-identified data was not de-identified according to existing standards. "Of the 24 studies we examined, only six were attacks on health data and only one of these was de-identified according to standards," Dr. El-Emam points out. "In that particular study, the proportion of correctly re-identified records was very low: about 0.013%."

In certain well-publicized re-identification attacks, adversaries were able to make use of such information as an individual's date of birth, gender, and residential zip code. Since these 3 features were not modified in any way, the database would not meet basic standards for de-identification. If anything, such a breach serves to underscore the importance of implementing existing de-identification standards.

Dr. El-Emam concludes by saying that in order to have a more accurate picture of the extent to which de-identification protects against real attacks, future research on re-identification attacks should focus on large databases that have been de-identified according to existing standards, and that success rates should be correlated with how well de-identification was performed. In the meantime, it is suggested that data custodians continue to de-identify using current best practices.


'/>"/>

Contact: Adrienne Vienneau
avienneau@cheo.on.ca
613-737-7600 x4144
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. A Healthy Diet Remains Your Best Weapon Against the #1 Killer: Heart Disease
2. JDR increases its 5-Year SIF and remains number one dental journal of 64 in its category
3. Green And Greener Survey Shows Hospitals Embrace Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Though Room for Improvement Remains
4. Lack of insurance coverage remains obstacle to wider colorectal cancer screening with CT colonography
5. Surgery or stenting for carotid artery disease? Question remains
6. Results of the placement of multiple endoscopic stents for postoperative biliary strictures remains excellent after long-term follow-up
7. Adults in Puerto Rico aware of genetic testing, but use remains low
8. Religious Identity Remains Constant in Teen Years: Study
9. Benefit of blood glucose lowering to near-normal levels remains unclear
10. Evidence in the field of CVD in pregnancy is sparse, but the condition remains a concern:
11. New report: US investment in health research remains stagnant
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:9/20/2017)... ... September 20, 2017 , ... Health & Safety Institute (HSI) is offering discounted ... and 40-Hour courses from now until November 30, 2017 to assist with the clean-up ... prices to all businesses and government agencies – whether or not they will be ...
(Date:9/20/2017)... ... September 20, 2017 , ... “Finn Mouseson”: follows the exciting story ... average life. This mouse sets out on a journey that will show that friends ... the creation of newly published author and illustrator, Melody Gersonde-Mickelson, who has earned a ...
(Date:9/20/2017)... ... September 20, 2017 , ... “The Foggy Road to Moorwick”: the adventures of a young ... creation of published author, Jeanine Liston, a busy mother of five who used her time ... been writing this book for over twenty years. It was a way to give ...
(Date:9/19/2017)... ... September 19, 2017 , ... ... Brazilian jiu-jitsu community have raised more than $15,000 in just a couple of ... professional submission grappling matches and world-class instructor seminars, organizers expect to double those ...
(Date:9/19/2017)... ... ... Trusted debt-reduction firm CreditAssociates, LLC has announced two important milestones. To date, ... million in resolved debt for its clients. , Credit card debt, unpaid hospital bills, ... debt settled by the company. With more than a decade of combined service to ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:9/6/2017)... N.Y. , Sept. 6, 2017   PDI , ... announced it will host an educational session focused on ... bloodstream infection (CLABSI) prevention at the 2017 Annual Scientific ... which will take place at the Phoenix ... from Sept. 16-19, will also feature PDI,s ...
(Date:9/5/2017)... N.J. , Sept. 5, 2017  Getinge, ... has created a vibrant charitable donation program -- ... and support congenital heart defect research by The ... providers and the general public are encouraged to ... and submit the completed artwork to the gallery ...
(Date:9/1/2017)... 1, 2017  Bayer will present the latest research from ... Medical Oncology (ESMO) 2017 Congress, September 8-12 in ... preclinical and clinical data on Bayer,s marketed portfolio and late-stage ... "We value the ... cancer research at ESMO," said Carsten Brunn , Head ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: