GCN: Do’s and don’ts of data de-identification

Government goes to great lengths to protect personally identifiable information in the data it collects. To ensure de-identified data cannot be engineered to reveal individuals’ sensitive information, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is updating its guidance to address advances in privacy technology in the six years since the last version was issued.

De-identifcation allows researchers to prevent or limit privacy risks to those individuals whose personal data is contained in the dataset while still allowing for meaningful statistical analysis…

Agencies should perform de-identification using software specifically designed for that purpose with the guidance of trained individuals, NIST recommended. “While it is possible to perform de-identifcation with off-the-shelf software like a commercial spreadsheet or financial planning program, such programs typically lack the key functions required for proper de-identifcation,” the guidance stated. Failure to use the appropriate software “may result in a dataset that appears de-identifed but that still contain significant disclosure risks.” … Read the full article here.

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