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Personal Privacy

By Steve Jones,

It amazes me how much data is growing every day. It seems that each time I read something about some new application or system in the world that is supposed to solve some problem it involves a ton of new data, often data that's tied to an individual.

Privacy issues with data will continue to grow. We need to come up with better ways to manage and protect privacy, but I'm sure we will always have issues. Especially with regards to healthcare where information about an individual is extremely personal to them, but must be disseminated to a variety of groups in order to ensure proper treatment.

I ran across an interesting note talking about the privacy of data used in research. One of the ways in which we find new treatments and cures for disease is by analyzing a lot of data collected in trials, but also from individuals' habits, prescriptions, genetics, etc. Those are very valuable pieces of information and there is a dilemma here. The information can help the general population by helping researchers learn from patterns. However that same information could potentially hurt an individual if it is disclosed.

In the article, they talk about a new technique that is being used to anonymize the data when here is a privacy risk. By changing the way results or patterns can be reported with small sample sizes, then this technique might better protect an individual's privacy. The problem with this technique is that the sample size to maintain privacy is not necessarily set or standardized.

It's a good idea, and I am glad that there is work being done to try and protect the sources of data. I'd like to see more research, and perhaps the application of this data to other industries and areas as well. It would be nice if most of the information that companies sold or shared would be similarly anonymized as well.

Steve Jones


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