JSM 2011 Online Program

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Abstract Details

Activity Number: 332
Type: Topic Contributed
Date/Time: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 : 10:30 AM to 12:20 PM
Sponsor: Section on Health Policy Statistics
Abstract - #302255
Title: Harder Than You Think: A Case Study of Re-Identification Risk of HIPAA-Compliant Records
Author(s): Peter K. Kwok*+ and Michael Davern and Elizabeth C. Hair and Deborah Lafky
Companies: NORC at the The University of Chicago and NORC at the The University of Chicago and NORC at the The University of Chicago and Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
Address: 55 East Monroe Street, Chicago, IL, 60603,
Keywords: Statistical disclosure limitation ; HIPAA ; Safe Harbor Privacy Rules ; data confidentiality ; external re-identification ; re-identification risk

We have studied the admission records of Hispanics in one hospital system between 2004 and 2009. The data set was stripped of identifying information as required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) safe harbor methodology. We simulated an intrusion scenario in which an intruder had access to a substantial amount of information available from a market research company. We used the market research data to try to identify specific people from the hospital system's HIPAA de-identified data set, and sent possible matches to the hospital system for confirmation. Our experiment shows that this intrusion scenario involves many challenges. Even when the intruder is given strong assumptions about their knowledge the re-identification risk is only about 0.22%. We discuss the limits of our analysis and identify areas for future inquiry.

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