TORONTO, June 16, 2014 /CNW/ - Properly applied de-identification is an
effective tool to protect privacy, but recent criticisms have suggested
the opposite. The perpetuation of this myth has the potential to
adversely impact health research, innovation and Big Data insights.
In order to address the misconceptions surrounding de-identification,
Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian, and
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) Senior Analyst
Daniel Castro, have jointly released a new white paper, "Big Data and Innovation - Setting the Record Straight: De-Identification
The white paper examines a select group of articles that are often
referenced in support of the myth that de-identified datasets are at
risk of re-identifying individuals through linkages with other
available data. It examines the ways in which the academic research
referenced has been misconstrued and finds that the primary reason for
the popularity of these misconceptions is not factual inaccuracies or
errors within the literature, but rather a tendency on the part of
commentators to overstate/exaggerate the risk of re-identification.
While the research does raise important issues concerning the use of
proper de-identification techniques, it does not suggest that
de-identification should be abandoned.
The co-authors feel that it is crucial to dispel this myth lest the
capability of de-identifying data be viewed as a barrier to innovation.
This is simply not the case. It is indeed possible to strongly
de-identify data, thereby achieving a high degree of privacy, while at
the same time preserving the required level of data quality necessary
for the analysis. Maximizing both privacy and data quality enables a
shift away from a zero-sum, either/or paradigm, to an inclusive
positive-sum paradigm, a key principle of Privacy by Design. This doubly-enabling, "win-win" strategy avoids unnecessary
trade-offs and allows data analytics to advance in ways never before
"We must remain vigilant in reversing the perception that
de-identification is an ineffective tool to protect privacy — we cannot
allow it to become a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Commissioner
Cavoukian. "Strong de-identification remains an essential tool to
protecting privacy and allowing innovative research to flourish! This
serves as yet another example of how privacy enables innovation!"
"Data innovation is transforming numerous aspects of society from health
care to education and privacy concerns need to be balanced with the
public benefits the enhanced use of data provides," notes Castro.
"De-identification is a useful tool for maintaining this balance and it
is my hope this report will address unnecessary fears and help expand
and improve the use of these techniques moving forward."
About the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
The Information and Privacy Commissioner is appointed by and reports to
the Ontario Legislative Assembly, and is independent of the government
of the day. The Commissioner's mandate includes overseeing the access
and privacy provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, as well as the Personal Health Information Protection Act, which applies to both public and private sector health information
custodians. A vital component of the Commissioner's mandate is to help
educate the public about access and privacy issues.
About Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF)
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a
Washington, D.C.-based think tank at the cutting edge of designing
innovation strategies and technology policies to create economic
opportunities and improve quality of life in the United States and
around the world. Founded in 2006, ITIF is a 501(c) 3 non-profit,
non-partisan organization that documents the beneficial role technology
plays in our lives and provides pragmatic ideas for improving
technology-driven productivity, boosting competitiveness, and meeting
today's global challenges through innovation. More at: www.itif.org.
SOURCE: Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario
For further information:
Media Relations Specialist
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation