Navigation Links
Most Canadians can be uniquely identified from their date of birth and postal code
Date:8/8/2011

OTTAWA August 8, 2011 There are increasing pressures for health care providers to make individual-level data readily available for research and policy making. But Canadians are more likely to allow the sharing of their personal data if they believe that their privacy is protected. A new report by Dr. Khaled El Emam, the Canada Research Chair in Electronic Health Information at the University of Ottawa and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, suggests that Canadians can be uniquely identified from their date of birth, postal code, and gender. This means if this triad of data exists in any database, even if it has no names or other identifying information, it would be possible to determine the identity of those individuals. The report is now available in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making Journal.

"Most people tend to think twice before reporting their year of birth [to protect their privacy] but this report forces us all to think about the combination or the totality of data we share," said Dr. El Emam. "It calls out the urgency for more precise and quantitative approaches to measure the different ways in which individuals can be re-identified in databases and for the general population to think about all of the pieces of personal information which in combination can erode their anonymity."

The research study used a sizable Montreal-based population. The provincial health insurance claims database of Quebec holds demographic information on all citizens that have health insurance. Because it is publicly financed insurance, it effectively captures the whole population. For the purpose of the investigation, only date of birth, gender and full postal code data were obtained.

Using only the postal codes, the proportion of individuals who are unique is significant. When the full date of birth is used together with the full postal code, then approximately 97% of the population are unique with only one year of data. When the full date of birth and a multi-year residential trail are considered, then almost 100% of the population is unique. Reducing the granularity of the postal code to 1 character together with the full date of birth does reduce the proportion uniqueness considerably.

"The findings are important because they offer yet another onion skin to peel back in the overarching dialogue about individual privacy rights. We need to continuously evaluate these risks to privacy, and put in place measures to protect anonymity, whether technological or policy-based. Failure to do so will result in a public unwilling for their health data to be used for secondary purposes, such as health research," said Dr. El Emam. "Take for example, if only a three character postal code is combined with the full date of birth, close to 80% of the population is unique or easily identifiable. I suspect this will surprise most people."


'/>"/>

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

Related medicine news :

1. Canadians should demand commitments for pharmacare program, says CMAJ
2. CMAJ calls on federal government to protect Canadians from unsafe drugs
3. A North American first at the Montreal Heart Institute could help treat thousands of Canadians
4. Coastal Canadians living in high-risk neighborhoods in poorer health: Study
5. Canadians track infectious disease threats at World Cup
6. Book on vision loss: AMD affects 1 million Canadians
7. Canadians Leading Longer, Healthier Lives Than Americans
8. Replicon Recognized Among Best Employers for New Canadians
9. Research shows that some features of human face perception are not uniquely human
10. Key growth factor identified in T cell leukemia
11. Best post-transplant drug regimen identified for patients with new kidneys
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/27/2017)... ... May 27, 2017 , ... In any business, follow up is critical to ... dental team at presenting treatment, there will always be some patients who can’t or ... money on best practices when it comes to presenting treatment. After the patient ...
(Date:5/26/2017)... ... May 26, 2017 , ... Mediaplanet is proud to announce the launch of ... which will educate readers on how to take care of all aspects of their ... placed on melanoma. Dancing with the Stars professional, Witney Carson, shares her journey with ...
(Date:5/26/2017)... ... 2017 , ... The Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA) ... legislative activity and the latest regulatory concerns impacting RBMA members. The Legislative Education ... will continue through Monday, Sept. 11, at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in Mclean, ...
(Date:5/26/2017)... ... 2017 , ... A new analysis of community health data reveals that four ... the Midwest. With the average cost of healthcare rising and the U.S. senior population ... quality and affordability of where they live. An annual 2017 report looked at a ...
(Date:5/26/2017)... ... May 26, 2017 , ... On May 24, the Congressional ... passed the U.S. House on May 4, would result in 23 million Americans losing ... implementation of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). , “It ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:5/4/2017)... 2017  A new tight-tolerance microextrusion medical tubing ... materials, is being launched by Natvar, a Tekni-Plex ... in recent years to service a wide variety ... More expensive materials such as glass and fluoropolymers ... to their ability to consistently hold tolerances. This ...
(Date:5/3/2017)... 3, 2017  Kalorama Information notes that transplant ... next year and this is projected to continue ... cell (HSCT) or bone marrow transplants require histocompatibility ... well-suited for this task. This according to a ... Information. The various PCR-based methodologies, Sanger sequencing and ...
(Date:5/2/2017)... and NEW YORK ... As the leading distributor of market intelligence, ... European Med Tech Reimbursement Consulting AB that ... Tech Reimbursement Consulting AB,s proprietary market analyses through the ... professionals around the world easy access to complete product ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: