Natasha Singer writes:
Time to revisit the always compelling — and often disconcerting — debate over digital privacy. So, what might your movie picks and your medical records have in common?
How about a potentially false sense of control over who can see your user history?
While Netflix and some health care concerns say they have been able to offer study data to researchers stripped of specific personal details like your name, phone number and e-mail address, in some cases researchers may be able to re-identify you by correlating anonymous information with the digital trail that you’ve left on blogs, chat rooms and Twitter.
Read more in The New York Times. Singer makes the point that many people would be surprised to learn that their patient data is also being sold — allegedly after being “scrubbed” or “de-identified.” Those who are aware of studies showing that it is relatively easy to re-identify data sets may be suitably alarmed by the notion that their data is being sold without their express knowledge or consent.
But the problem is not just confined to businesses that sell our data. As the recent UNC-Chapel Hill hack involving a mammorgraphy study reminds us, many patients may have their data sent to research studies without their express knowledge or direct consent, only to find out years later that their sensitive personal and/or medical information was hacked or acquired.