Nav: Home

Don't stop anonymizing data

June 16, 2011

EDMONTON (National Access & Privacy Conference 2011) - June 16, 2011 - Canadian privacy experts have issued a new report (link will go live after embargo lift) today that strongly backs the practice of de-identification as a key element in the protection of personal information. The joint paper from Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, and 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, comes as some privacy policy makers increasingly question the value of de-identification.

Personal information can be routinely de-identified before it is used or disclosed for a wide range of purposes, such as research, where it is not necessary to know the identity of individuals. Recently, however, the practice of de-identification as an effective tool to protect privacy has been challenged by those who claim it is possible to re-identify individuals from seemingly anonymous data. Today's report refutes this position, and further validates that anonymizing data is a reliable, safe and practical way to protect personal information.

Launched at the University of Alberta's National Access and Privacy Conference, the new paper entitled,"Dispelling the Myths Surrounding De-Identification: Anonymization Remains a Strong Tool for Protecting Privacy," shows that the re-identification of properly de-identified information is not, in fact, an easy or trivial task, and rather requires concerted effort on the part of skilled technicians. De-identification is a vital first step in protecting privacy, by drastically reducing the risk that personal information will be used or disclosed for unauthorized or malicious purposes.

"Not only does de-identification protect individual privacy, it also enables the valuable use of information for authorized secondary purposes, such as health research, which benefits not only individuals but society as a whole. This enables the shift from a zero-sum paradigm to a positive-sum paradigm, a key principle of Privacy by Design," says Commissioner Cavoukian.

"De-identification techniques are gaining serious traction and Canadians are leading this conversation abroad," adds Dr. El Emam. "Collaborating with the Commissioner's Office to compile this report is an important achievement. Privacy topics get a lot of attention only when something goes wrong. Today we are sending a positive message that personal information can get protected and utilized for good reasons, in the safest way possible."
-end-
Commissioner Cavoukian will today receive the 2011 Information Access and Protection of Privacy (IAPP) Award from the University of Alberta's Faculty of Extension. This award acknowledges her inclusive leadership role involving both the public and private sectors, and her success in promoting understanding of access to information and privacy rights across the globe.

About the IPC

The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government of the day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access and privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the Personal Health Information Protection Act, which applies to both public and private sector health information custodians. A vital component of the Commissioner's mandate is helping to educate the public about access and privacy issues.

About the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Research Institute

Established in 1984, the CHEO Research Institute coordinates the research activities of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and is one of the institutes associated with the University of Ottawa Teaching Hospitals. The Research Institute brings together health professionals from within CHEO to share their efforts in solving paediatric health problems. It also promotes collaborative research outside the hospital with partners from the immediate community, industry and the international scientific world.

Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

Related Privacy Articles:

COVID-19 contact tracing apps: 8 privacy questions governments should ask
Imperial experts have posed eight privacy questions governments should consider when developing coronavirus contact tracing apps.
New security system to revolutionise communications privacy
A new uncrackable security system created by researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the University of St Andrews and the Center for Unconventional Processes of Sciences (CUP Sciences) is set to revolutionize communications privacy.
Mayo Clinic studies patient privacy in MRI research
Though identifying data typically are removed from medical image files before they are shared for research, a Mayo Clinic study finds that this may not be enough to protect patient privacy.
Researchers uncover privacy flaw in e-passports
Researchers at the University of Luxembourg have discovered a flaw in the security standard used in biometric passports (e-passports) worldwide since 2004.
How cities can leverage citizen data while protecting privacy
In a new study, MIT researchers find that there is, in fact, a way for Indian cities to preserve citizen privacy while using their data to improve efficiency.
Cell-mostly internet users place privacy burden on themselves
Do data privacy concerns disproportionately affect people who access the internet primarily through cell phones?
Anonymizing personal data 'not enough to protect privacy,' shows new study
Current methods for anonymizing data leave individuals at risk of being re-identified, according to new research from University of Louvain (UCLouvain) and Imperial College London.
Study finds Wi-Fi location affects online privacy behavior
Does sitting in a coffee shop versus at home influence a person's willingness to disclose private information online?
Putting data privacy in the hands of users
MIT and Harvard University researchers have developed Riverbed, a platform that ensures web and mobile apps using distributed computing in data centers adhere to users' preferences on how their data are shared and stored in the cloud.
Social media privacy is in the hands of a few friends
New research has revealed that people's behavior is predictable from the social media data of as few as eight or nine of their friends.
More Privacy News and Privacy Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.