Researchers identify potential privacy breach with patient records

Researchers have been able to identify individuals in anonymous government healthcare data, potentially exposing private information from data published by the federal Department of Health in August 2016.

According to ABC Online story, the changes were part of a move towards “open data” with the historical information including medical and pharmaceutical bills of about 10 per cent of Australians.

In late 2016, experts from the University of Melbourne embarrassed the Government after being able to decrypt or decode a number of doctor ID numbers resulting in the website being pulled offline.

The University of Melbourne this week released a report (December 18, 2017) explaining the process experts used to uncover the readily available information on the internet with co-author Dr Vanessa Teague criticising the Department of Health for publicly allowing this information to be so accessible.

“You could discover who might be receiving mental health treatment or HIV medication, for instance,” Dr Teague said.

“The possibility of having that fact exposed might have very serious consequences.”

According to the Department of Health, a spokesperson described the matter as having been referred to the Privacy Commissioner for investigation.

“The project was halted and remains halted, and the dataset was removed immediately.” “

The department has not been aware of anyone being identified.”

 

 

 

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