Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Databases Must Balance Privacy With Utility, Says Professor

Date:
September 4, 2007
Source:
Carnegie Mellon University
Summary:
Agencies like the US Census Bureau produce a voluminous amount of data, much of which is of tremendous value to researchers. But the data also includes personal information that could be harmful were it to fall into the wrong hands. Thus, organizations that maintain such databases need to devise ways to protect individuals' privacy while preserving the value of the information to researchers, writes Carnegie Mellon University Statistics in a recent article.

Agencies like the U.S. Census Bureau produce a voluminous amount of data, much of which is of tremendous value to social scientists and other researchers. But the data also includes personal information that, under the law, must be protected and could be harmful were it to fall into the wrong hands.

Related Articles


Thus, organizations that maintain such databases need to devise ways to protect individuals' privacy while preserving the value of the information to researchers, writes Carnegie Mellon University Statistics Professor George Duncan in a commentary in the Aug. 31 edition of the journal Science.

Duncan said traditional methods of "de-identifying" records, such as stripping away Social Security numbers or birthdates, are inadequate to safeguard privacy because a person who knows enough about the data pool could use other characteristics to identify individuals. Duncan, for example, is the only person who holds a Ph.D. in statistics and teaches in Carnegie Mellon's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, so any data set that included that information, even with Duncan's name removed, could be used to determine his identity.

This could have serious consequences when it comes to data that includes information about a person's medical history or sexual behavior, like that collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. Unfortunately, the characteristics that can be used to re-identify records are often the very information that makes the data useful to legitimate researchers.

"The question is, 'How can data be made useful for research purposes without compromising the confidentiality of those who provided the data?'" Duncan said.

Possible solutions to this dilemma include administrative procedures that limit data access to approved users who must abide by restrictions on the use of information, and statistical methods that de-identify records in such a way that the user cannot readily reconstruct personal identities. In order to be effective, these statistical transformations must be tailored to how the data will be used, so that researchers can see the information that interests them while other characteristics remain veiled.

Duncan's commentary in Science was prompted by recent reports on data privacy, one by the U.S. National Research Council and the other by the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering. In the article, Duncan discusses efforts to safeguard information gathered by video surveillance cameras, wireless networks and radio-frequency identification tags, which are used by hospitals to ensure that patients receive the correct treatment.

"Achieving 'adequate' privacy will require engineering innovation, managerial commitment, information cooperation of data subjects and social controls (legislation, regulation, codes of conduct by professional associations and response to reactions of the public)," Duncan wrote.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Mellon University. "Databases Must Balance Privacy With Utility, Says Professor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070830150102.htm>.
Carnegie Mellon University. (2007, September 4). Databases Must Balance Privacy With Utility, Says Professor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070830150102.htm
Carnegie Mellon University. "Databases Must Balance Privacy With Utility, Says Professor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070830150102.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Samsung's Incredible Shrinking Smartphone Profits

Samsung's Incredible Shrinking Smartphone Profits

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 30, 2014) The world's top mobile maker is under severe pressure, delivering a 60 percent drop in Q3 profit as its handset business struggles. Turning it around may not prove easy, says Reuters' Jon Gordon. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ban On Wearable Cameras In Movie Theaters Surprises No One

Ban On Wearable Cameras In Movie Theaters Surprises No One

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) The Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners now prohibit wearable cameras such as Google Glass. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Launches Fitness Band After Accidental Reveal

Microsoft Launches Fitness Band After Accidental Reveal

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) Microsoft accidentally revealed its upcoming fitness band on Wednesday, so the company went ahead and announced it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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