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[liberationtech] Opinion on a paper?

Paul Bernal (LAW) Paul.Bernal at
Sun Sep 9 09:44:49 PDT 2012

I've just come across this paper: "The 'Re-Identification' of Governor William Weld's Medical Information: A Critical Re-Examination of Health Data Identification Risks and Privacy Protections, Then and Now"

It can be downloaded here:

I wondered if anyone had an opinion on it - I don't have the technical knowledge to be able to evaluate it properly. The basic conclusion seems to be that re-identification of 'anonymised' data is not nearly as easy as we had previously thought (from the work of Latanya Sweeney, Paul Ohm etc). Are these conclusions valid?

My concern is that I can see this paper being used to justify all kinds of potentially risky information being released - particularly health data, which could get into the hands of insurance companies and others who could use it to the detriment of individuals. On the other hand, if the conclusions are really valid, then perhaps people like me shouldn't be as concerned as we are.

Any help would be appreciated.



Dr Paul Bernal
UEA Law School
University of East Anglia
Norwich Research Park
Norwich NR4 7TJ

email: paul.bernal at<mailto:paul.bernal at>
Twitter: @paulbernalUK

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