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Managing the Risk of Re-identification for Public Use Files

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CHEO Research Institute: Electronic Health Information Laboratory




There is great demand for data. This may be financial data, health data, Internet transaction (clickstream) data, or travel/movement data. Such data may be used to develop or improve new services and products, for research and public health purposes, and to inform or even change the behaviour of citizens. Providing greater access to data has been shown to have many societal benefits. For instance, it may help with the creation of wealth and improve people’s health.

This report focuses on the disclosure of individual-level information. In any disclosure of individual-level information there will be privacy concerns with making the data publicly available. Individuals would have concerns if their personal information, whether it is say, health or financial, is made publicly available.

The report discusses in detail the principles, metrics, and methods that can be used to manage the privacy risks associated with disclosing data, and to ensure that the probability of re-identifying individuals in publicly disclosed files is low and that the probability of discovering sensitive information about them is low. The report provides methods for determining what “low” should be and what would be appropriate levels of access restrictions on public data. The objective is to give data custodians the tools to make decisions about the best way to disclose this data, but also ensure that the privacy of individuals is protected.

This report is being combined with other research from the Electronic Health Information Laboratory into a book that will be published in 2012.

This document is available in the following language(s):

English only

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact Information

CHEO Research Institute
401 Smyth Road
Ottawa, Ontario

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