De-Identification 101

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To extract or maximize the value contained in databases, data custodians must often provide outside organizations access to their data. In order to protect the privacy of the individuals whose data is being disclosed, a data custodian must “de-identify” information before releasing it to a third-party. De-identification ensures that data cannot be matched to the person it describes. What might seem like a simple matter of masking a person’s direct identifiers (name, address), the problem of de-identification has proven more difficult and is an active area of scientific research.

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