Alice goes to the hospital in the United States. Her doctor and health insurance company know the details ? and often, so does her state government. Thirty-three of the states that know those details do not keep the information to themselves or limit their sharing to researchers . Instead, they give away or sell a version of this information, and often they’re legally required to do so. The states turn to you as a computer scientist, IT specialist, policy expert, consultant, or privacy officer and ask, are the data anonymous? Can anyone be identified? Chances are you have no idea whether real-world risks exist. Here is how I matched patient names to publicly available health data sold by Washington State, and how the state responded. Doing this kind of experiment helps improve data-sharing practices, reduce privacy risks, and encourage the development of better technological solutions.
Sweeney, Latanya. "Only You, Your Doctor, and Many Others May Know." Technology Science (September 2015).