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:6/26/2016)... NC (PRWEB) , ... June 26, 2016 , ... Brent Kasmer, a legally blind and ... to be personalized through a fitness app. The fitness app plans to fix the two ... currently only offer a one size fits all type program , They don’t ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... "With 30 hand-drawn hand ... project," said Christina Austin - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProHand Cartoon’s ... within Final Cut Pro X . Simply select a ProHand generator and drag ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... Canada (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... Conventional ... pursuit of success. In terms of the latter, setting the bar too high can ... risk more than just slow progress toward their goal. , Research from ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... 24, 2016 , ... The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) learned ... receive two significant new grants to support its work to advance research and ... by recognizing patients, medical professionals and scientists for their work in fighting pulmonary ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... June 24, 2016 , ... People across the U.S. are ... Code Talker Award, an essay contest in which patients and their families pay tribute ... presented at the 2016 National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Annual Education Conference (AEC) ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Research and ... Global Market - Forecast to 2022" report to their ... treatment method for the patients with kidney failure, it replaces ... fluid from the patient,s blood and thus the treatment helps ... and chloride in balance. Increasing number of ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... DUBLIN , June 23, 2016 ... the "Pharmaceutical Excipients Market by Type (Organic Chemical ... Preservative), Formulation (Oral, Topical, Coating, Parenteral) - Global Forecast ... The global pharmaceutical excipients ... 2021 at a CAGR of 6.1% in the forecast ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; ... for its Elecsys BRAHMS PCT (procalcitonin) assay as a ... septic shock. With this clearance, Roche is the first ... integrated solution for sepsis risk assessment and management. ... infection and PCT levels in blood can aid clinicians ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: