PopData-led team awarded CIHR grant to put privacy preserving linkage techniques to the test

Date posted: 
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

An international team of researchers, led by PopData Scientific Director, Kimberlyn McGrail, has been awarded a $413,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to compare traditional with new privacy preserving linkage techniques.   

“Data are critical to health care research and innovation and making the most of data requires the linkage of disparate data sources,” says McGrail, Associate Professor in the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at The University of British Columbia (UBC).

“Currently, linking person-specific information, particularly across sectors, can require using identifiers such as names and addresses. Existing data linkage standards use highly secure methods that comply with legislation and data steward expectations, but any data set that includes identifiable information is at least at theoretical risk of exposure. New developments in privacy preserving record linkage aim at reducing the need to use identifiers in their raw form. The aim of this grant is to test, evaluate and improve these approaches.”

The 3-year project will test whether privacy-preserving record linkage methods can be adapted and scaled for use in real-world settings through an applied case study approach, comparing privacy preserving record linkage approaches to existing practices that use personal identifiers in three linkage scenarios. These scenarios will range from low complexity (familiar linkage with high quality identifiers) to high complexity (less familiar data, lower data identifiers).

The team of data linkage experts from Canada, Australia, the UK and Germany, believes that enhancing and operationalizing privacy preserving record linkage protocols through this project will enable a whole new era of population-focused research using linked data.

Page last revised: January 31, 2018