Privacy and anonymity challenges when collecting data for public health purposes

J Law Med Ethics. 2013 Mar:41 Suppl 1:37-41. doi: 10.1111/jlme.12036.


Two contemporary problems face public health professionals in collecting data from health care providers: the de-identification of geospatial information in a manner that still allows meaningful analysis, and ensuring that provider performance data (e.g., infection or screening rates) is complete and accurate. In this paper, we discuss new methods for de-identifying geographic information that will allow useful de-identified data to be disclosed to public health. In addition, we propose privacy preserving mechanisms that will likely encourage providers to disclose complete and accurate data. However, this must be accompanied by steps to grow trust between the providers and public health.

MeSH terms

  • Confidentiality / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Data Collection / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Disclosure*
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Trust*
  • United States