Saturday, June 29, 2013

Redaction fail - Lessons healthcare must learn from

Interesting article on the problem with redaction, possibly exacerbated by human redaction. The article focuses on Military/Political based classification systems and the de-classification system we have. This system is based on humans that are trained experts. Their training, expertise, and guidelines tend to be highly variable. The article even includes explicit examples where two different people came to exactly the opposite conclusions on redaction, thus their combination gave everything.

The best part of the article is the paragraph:
"The idea that you can slot all knowledge into neat little categories that perfectly overlap with our security concerns is already a problematic one, as Peter Galison has argued. Galison’s argument is that security classification systems assume that knowledge is “atomic,” which is to say, comes in discrete bundles that can be disconnected from other knowledge (read “atomic” like “atomic theory” and not “atomic bomb”). The study of knowledge (either from first principles or historically) shows exactly the opposite— knowledge is constituted by sending out lots of little tendrils to other bits of knowledge, and knowledge of the natural world is necessarily interconnected. If you know a little bit about one thing you often know a little bit about everything similar to it."
De-Identification focuses on the removal of identifiers. This is hard enough, but nowhere near as hard as removing intelligence. That is not to say that healthcare has it easy, we do have sensitive health topics that are just as hard to handle. We should just not equate government redaction systems with the systems we need in healthcare to support clinical trials, clinical research, public health reporting, etc.

See also: De-Identification