Certification_Ad_300x250final-01
IAPP_StudyGuideAD
IAPP-GDPR Web Banners-300x250-FINAL

“We need to stop pretending that pseudonyms protect privacy.”

Such was Cambridge University Prof. Ross Anderson’s message to assembled privacy professionals during Wednesday’s opening keynote at the IAPP Europe Data Protection Intensive here in London, UK.

“Above all, we need honesty,” he implored.

The topic is top-of-mind in the UK, with the National Health System (NHS) getting policy direction from the top that “every patient is a research patient,” Anderson observed, and he predicted “the fight in Britain is going to be about anonymization.”

The thing is, there’s good data showing UK citizens, by a tally of 70 to 80 percent, are happy to have their medical data used in research. Provided they’re asked. “But if they’re not asked,” said Anderson, “they’re against it.” In fact, 53 percent of UK residents oppose or strongly oppose a central records database in the first place.

However, the Clinical Practice Research Datalink has been live since 2012, jointly funded by the NHS National Institute for Health Research and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Already it’s been used in nearly 900 clinical reviews and papers.

Cambridge University Professor Ross Anderson

“Now, in the U.S., you can just add to your shopping basket 100,000 UK diabetics,” Anderson said. “And there will soon be another system hoovering up GP stuff and making that for sale as well.”

The problem? As the data gets big, anonymization gets nearly impossible, he said, noting that if there are 33 data points on one individual, it’s a virtual certainty that person can be re-identified.

NHS Chief Scientific Advisor Mark Walport and National Director for Patients and Information Tim Kelsey “vigorously think all the data should be available,” Anderson said, but won’t acknowledge the risk to personal privacy.

“You can occasionally use anonymization, but it’s really, really hard and you can only use it under precise circumstances,” Anderson said. Especially, you need to be able to predict how that data is going to be used. The problem with a central repository from which you can buy data is that you don’t have any idea how that data might be integrated or combined with other data, which completely changes the effectiveness of the anonymization.

“Once it’s decentralized,” he said, “it’s only a matter of time until something unpleasant happens,” and “once you move away from episodic data to longitudinal data, then there are so many ways of identifying people.”

So, what should be done? Anderson said NHS and other records databases should create architecture the way Google would do it: “A company like Google would never dream of having a person walk out the door with eight million Gmail inboxes sitting on a laptop to go work at home for the weekend. Disabuse yourselves of the idea that you can download data like this to a laptop.”

For NHS, or any privacy professional working with Big Data sets, he recommends “a proper number of controlled repositories” to which you can apply for access. “The world has to change,” Anderson insisted. “There are ways forward technically, but it involves doing research the way Google would do it rather than the way it’s done now.”

Written By

Sam Pfeifle

0 Comments

If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.

Related

Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Spots Going Fast

With the top minds in the field leading this exceptional program, it's no wonder it's filling quickly. Register now to secure your spot.

Be Part of Something Big: Join the Summit

Registration is open for the Global Privacy Summit 2016. Discounted early bird rates available for a short time, register today!

Data Protection Intensive Returns to London

Registration is now open for the IAPP Europe Data Protection Intensive in London. Check out the program!

P.S.R. Call for Speakers Open!

P.S.R. is THE privacy + cloud security event of the year, and you can take a leading role. Propose a session for this year's program.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»