Feeds

Info-scrubbing algorithm unveiled to protect patient privacy

Medical data without the secrets

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

US researchers have devised a novel way to protect the privacy of patients whose medical histories are included in public databases and electronic medial records, according to news reports.

The method, which was unveiled Monday by researchers from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, masks parts of a patient's records that aren't relevant to a particular inquiry. By generalizing vast amounts of clinical information, patients remain anonymous while still supplying researchers with data that's relevant to a specific project or topic.

The information-scrubbing algorithm has so far withstood simulated attempts to identify the individuals using data belonging to more than 2,600 patients. The mock hack assumed the would-be attackers knew the patient's identity and some or all of the patient's itemized medical history.

"There is definitely a need to de-identify individuals," Nils Homer of the University of California at Los Angeles, told Science News. He was part of a team that demonstrated two years ago that it was possible to trace a genetic signature back to the individual even when the patient's DNA profile was buried in a pool of thousands.

The finding prompted National Institutes of Health to restrict access to genetic databases.

The abstract to full article, Anonymization of electronic medical records for validating genome-wide association studies, is here. Additional coverage is here. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.