Background: Explicit patient consent requirements in privacy laws can have a negative impact on health research, leading to selection bias and reduced recruitment. Often legislative requirements to obtain consent are waived if the information collected or disclosed is de-identified. Objective: The authors developed and empirically evaluated a new globally optimal de-identification algorithm that satisfies the k-anonymity criterion and that is suitable for health datasets. Design: Authors compared OLA (Optimal Lattice Anonymization) empirically to three existing k-anonymity algorithms, Datafly, Samarati, and Incognito, on six public, hospital, and registry datasets for different values of k and suppression limits. Measurement: Three information loss metrics were used for the comparison: precision, discernability metric, and non-uniform entropy. Each algorithm's performance speed was also evaluated. Results: The Datafly and Samarati algorithms had higher information loss than OLA and Incognito; OLA was consistently faster than Incognito in finding the globally optimal de-identification solution. Conclusions: For the de-identification of health datasets, OLA is an improvement on existing k-anonymity algorithms in terms of information loss and performance.

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Journal Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association
El Emam, K. (Khaled), Dankar, F.K. (Fida Kamal), Issa, R. (Romeo), Jonker, E. (Elizabeth), Amyot, D. (Daniel), Cogo, E. (Elise), … Bottomley, J. (Jim). (2009). A Globally Optimal k-Anonymity Method for the De-Identification of Health Data. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 16(5), 670–682. doi:10.1197/jamia.M3144