Almost be definition, meaningful medical data is unique to individuals. Yet health care studies and developing technologies need access to large amounts of medical data to refine techniques and make new discoveries. Historically this medical data has been anonymized to hide true individual identities. Will that even be possible in the future?
A magnetic resonance imaging scan includes the entire head, including the subject’s face. And while the countenance is blurry, imaging technology has advanced to the point that the face can be reconstructed from the scan.
Under some circumstances, that face can be matched to an individual with facial recognition software.You Got a Brain Scan at the Hospital. Someday a Computer May Use It to Identify You.
Google was recently sued because plaintiffs alleged that it had not sufficiently anonymized health care data as a result of its parallel collection of location data in Android phones. (The location data could be allegedly combined with dates of hospital admission in the health care data to re-identify individuals.)
Anonymization is hard, and it’s getting harder.