Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Software 'Agents' Could Help Unmask Reality Of Disease Clusters

Date:
September 7, 2005
Source:
University of Bath
Summary:
Concerns over the privacy of patients could be hampering efforts to spot disease clusters and monitor the health effects of environmental pollution, according to researchers in the latest edition of the Journal of Biomedical Informatics.

Data made available toresearch groups investigating everything from cancer clusters to therisk of living near to hazardous waste sites is often restricted,altered or aggregated in order to protect the identity of individualpatients.

But researchers say that these measures often make itimpossible for them to carry out accurate geographical analyses ofpublic health concerns, and may even result in misleading informationbeing used in healthcare decisions.

They suggest that newtechnology which uses software “agents” to explore data could providehealthcare professionals with more accurate and meaningful informationwithout risking patients’ identities being revealed.

Agents areadvanced software programmes that can be set a specific task but thengiven the autonomy to set goals and carry out the operations necessaryto achieve them.

By constructing virtual institutions in whichagents can act, collaborating organisations can make raw data availablefor research without compromising the security of the information.

“Itis becoming increasingly clear that certain measures to protectindividual privacy can destroy the information needed for geographicalanalyses, making it impossible to address many important public healthconcerns,” said Dr Maged Boulos, from the School for Health at theUniversity of Bath.

“Some of the solutions used to preserveconfidentiality, such as centralising information to a single point ina town or aggregating data to cover the whole of an area, either lackthe flexibility healthcare researchers need to get the information theyneed, or else actually obscure the results.

“This degrades theability of public health researchers to identify, for example, the riskof exposure to lead associated with urban highways or clusters ofcancer cases.

“Such widespread concerns can only be addressedusing micro data and access to this often involves lengthy andcumbersome procedures through review boards and committees forapproval, and sometimes it is just not possible.”

Dr Boulos,together with colleagues from the Department of Computer Science at theUniversity of Bath and the University of Iowa, suggests that new agentsoftware may be able to overcome some of these problems.

Softwareagents are programmes that can respond to changes in their environment,generate and attempt to achieve goals, and have the capacity tointeract with other agents and even co-operate.

This means thatagents could be sent to the original data repository in order to carryout the analysis there, and then send back an aggregate report thatdoes not reveal individual identities. “Software agents could provideflexible but controlled access to unmodified confidential data, andreturn only results that do not expose any person-identifiabledetails,” said Dr Boulos.

“The use of software agents is not asimple as it sounds, and also carries with it its own security risks,which must be properly addressed.

“Mechanisms need to beintroduced that, for example, digitally sign and authenticate genuineagents and their transactions, and prevent ‘Trojan horse’-like attacksby fake or rogue agents.

“These mechanisms could include thecreation of virtual institutions to insulate host organisations fromagents and minimise leakage by limiting access to only the necessarydata.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bath. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bath. "Software 'Agents' Could Help Unmask Reality Of Disease Clusters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050907100144.htm>.
University of Bath. (2005, September 7). Software 'Agents' Could Help Unmask Reality Of Disease Clusters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050907100144.htm
University of Bath. "Software 'Agents' Could Help Unmask Reality Of Disease Clusters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050907100144.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FBI Finishes $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

FBI Finishes $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) The FBI announced it plans to make its Next Generation Identification System available to law enforcement, but some privacy advocates are worried. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A+ for Apple iPhone Pre-Sales

A+ for Apple iPhone Pre-Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 15, 2014) Apple says it received a record 4 million first-day pre-orders for its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, pushing delivery dates into October. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft to Buy 'Minecraft' Maker for $2.5B

Microsoft to Buy 'Minecraft' Maker for $2.5B

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) Microsoft will acquire the maker of the long-running hit game Minecraft for $2.5 billion as the company continues to invest in its Xbox gaming platform and looks to grab attention on mobile phones. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins