MIT Technology Review’s Physics arXiv Blog has an article that gave me some food for thought about the wireless monitoring systems being used on patients to record blood pressure and other vital signs or activity. Although the health data/measures may be encrypted, the location of the device’s unique hardware address is not encrypted and may pose a privacy issue in terms of revealing the patient’s location.
Wireless Body Area Networks can broadcast your location to anybody bothering to listen. Now researchers have a new way to prevent that.
Mana and co have a solution, however. Their idea is to make the monitoring devices within a body area network use pseudonyms which constantly change in a way that is hidden from external view. So although an eavesdropper may be able to pick up a temporary hardware address, that would quickly change preventing anybody following it.
Mana and co say their new protocol is light weight and energy efficient, both important factors for networks that are likely to run on limited battery power.
Telehealth is a rapidly growing business that is currently being tested in many countries around the world. The Department of Veterans Affairs in the US, for example, is one of the pioneers. Of course, privacy is crucial for its success–both for patient data and location. So Mana and co’s protocol, or something like it, is bound to find its way into future systems.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1103.3308: A Lightweight Protocol To Provide Location Privacy in Wireless Body Area Networks
Read more on The Physics arXiv Blog.