Differentially private release of medical microdata: An efficient and practical approach for preserving informative attribute values

Hyukki Lee, Yon Dohn Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Various methods based on k-anonymity have been proposed for publishing medical data while preserving privacy. However, the k-anonymity property assumes that adversaries possess fixed background knowledge. Although differential privacy overcomes this limitation, it is specialized for aggregated results. Thus, it is difficult to obtain high-quality microdata. To address this issue, we propose a differentially private medical microdata release method featuring high utility. Methods: We propose a method of anonymizing medical data under differential privacy. To improve data utility, especially by preserving informative attribute values, the proposed method adopts three data perturbation approaches: (1) generalization, (2) suppression, and (3) insertion. The proposed method produces an anonymized dataset that is nearly optimal with regard to utility, while preserving privacy. Results: The proposed method achieves lower information loss than existing methods. Based on a real-world case study, we prove that the results of data analyses using the original dataset and those obtained using a dataset anonymized via the proposed method are considerably similar. Conclusions: We propose a novel differentially private anonymization method that preserves informative values for the release of medical data. Through experiments, we show that the utility of medical data that has been anonymized via the proposed method is significantly better than that of existing methods.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jul 8

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Data anonymization
  • Data release
  • Differential privacy
  • Medical privacy
  • Privacy-preserving data publishing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics


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