Re-Identification: What It Is and How to Manage Its Risks

Re-Identification: What It Is and How to Manage Its Risks

Re-identification happens when a person or organization’s identity is identified even though their identifying information is removed. This identification is made using privately or publicly held information about the person or organization. And when this is done, it has to be with caution, as you can’t do analytics on one individual; you can only do it on a group of people.

Thus, it is essential to understand the data regulations in place. Data must always be used carefully and only when there is consent from the customers. 

What Is GDPR?  

GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is a security law passed in the EU. It applies to businesses in the EU and industries worldwide that process personal data from the EU. 

When using data, you have the follow the GDPR. And data from individuals include their location, pictures, videos, or navigation. As such, to provide privacy and protect data, the GDPR has the following requirements:

  • Need for consent from consumers before using their data.
  • Make sure the data collected is kept anonymous to protect privacy.
  • Notifications must be sent if there is a data breach. 
  • They must ensure the safe transfer of data across borders.
  • Companies must have data protection officers to ensure the GDP is adhered to.

Types of Identifiers

Many factors are associated with an increase or decrease in the re-identification risks, but they vary over time. 

Suppose you are to share some data with your company’s analytics team while ensuring a low risk of re-identification. In that case, what would you do? There are two types of identifiers to think over:

  • Direct Identifiers: Directly linked to an individual, it can help identify them in no time. It includes their phone number, social security number, or email address. 
  • Quasi-Identifiers: These do not aim to identify a single individual but can do so when combined with other quasi-identifiers. Let’s say that data about one’s job title will not identify a single individual as it applies to a large population, but ‘CEO’ or ‘Vice President’ could narrow down the number of individuals. 

How to Manage the Risk of Re-Identification?

Re-identification can feel like an attack on the individual or organization as it involves being persistent in gathering their details and determining their identity. And today, with the government releasing collected data and the availability of advanced technology, it is necessary to have re-identification risk management. Meanwhile, there are two approaches to managing re-identification risks. So, let’s get into them:

  • Controlling the context of the data released – when this is done, it allows critical data to be provided safely to researchers without the fear of being misused.
  • Treat the data – one can make decisions on how you should treat the data only after its release context is determined. The release context comprises users with access to the data, the cause for which the data will be used, and the release environment.  
  • One must implement differential privacy on data sets.
  • Creating data-release policies – to make sure that the de-identification is accurately done.
  • More privacy protection for anonymous information.
  • Stronger security for databases that store data that is anonymous.

All risks of re-identification are reduced because of the GDPR. They ensure that data isn’t attributed to an individual or organization. And by having separate access to additional information, they see that data is kept protected. 

Data identification can be scary, as there are times when one does not want their data used by those they don’t know. And although data regulation laws are in place, some people could hack into their data. So, it would help if you took charge of the data you upload on the internet as it can always be connected back to you. There are cases where data is misused and exposes private information of individuals.