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Research Paper Reexamines Reidentification

DATA PROTECTION—U.S.

September 7, 2012

Columbia University’s Daniel Barth-Jones has released a paper reexamining Latanya Sweeney’s 1997 analysis of reidentification vulnerabilities. With a “profound impact on the development of de-identification provisions” within HIPAA, Sweeney’s study has been “frequently cited as an example” of the “astonishing ease” with which medical data can be reidentified. According to Barth-Jones, this reexamination “exposes an important systemic barrier to accurate reidentification known as ‘the myth of the perfect population register.’” The author provides “recommendations for enhancements to existing HIPAA de-identification policy” and commentary on “balancing the competing goals of protection patient privacy and preserving the accuracy of scientific research and statistical analyses conducted with de-identified data.”
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