Utility-preserving anonymization for health data publishing

Hyukki Lee, Soohyung Kim, Jong Wook Kim, Yon Dohn Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Publishing raw electronic health records (EHRs) may be considered as a breach of the privacy of individuals because they usually contain sensitive information. A common practice for the privacy-preserving data publishing is to anonymize the data before publishing, and thus satisfy privacy models such as k-anonymity. Among various anonymization techniques, generalization is the most commonly used in medical/health data processing. Generalization inevitably causes information loss, and thus, various methods have been proposed to reduce information loss. However, existing generalization-based data anonymization methods cannot avoid excessive information loss and preserve data utility. Methods: We propose a utility-preserving anonymization for privacy preserving data publishing (PPDP). To preserve data utility, the proposed method comprises three parts: (1) utility-preserving model, (2) counterfeit record insertion, (3) catalog of the counterfeit records. We also propose an anonymization algorithm using the proposed method. Our anonymization algorithm applies full-domain generalization algorithm. We evaluate our method in comparison with existence method on two aspects, information loss measured through various quality metrics and error rate of analysis result. Results: With all different types of quality metrics, our proposed method show the lower information loss than the existing method. In the real-world EHRs analysis, analysis results show small portion of error between the anonymized data through the proposed method and original data. Conclusions: We propose a new utility-preserving anonymization method and an anonymization algorithm using the proposed method. Through experiments on various datasets, we show that the utility of EHRs anonymized by the proposed method is significantly better than those anonymized by previous approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 11

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Institute for Information & communications Technology Promotion(IITP) grant funded by the Korea government(MSIP) (No.R0190-15-2019,Development of personal information protection technology using unidentifiability technique on big data environment).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


  • Data anonymization
  • K-anonymity
  • Medical privacy
  • Utility-preserving data publishing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics


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