Multidimensional Epidemiological Transformations: Addressing Location-Privacy in Public Health Practice
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The ability to control one’s own personally identifiable information is a worthwhile human right that is becoming increasingly vulnerable. However just as significant, if not more so, is the right to health. With increasing globalisation and threats of natural disasters and acts of terrorism, this right is also becoming increasingly vulnerable. Public health practice – which is charged with the protection, promotion and mitigation of the health of society and its individuals – has been at odds with the right to privacy. This is particularly significant when location privacy is under consideration. Spatial information is an important aspect of public health, yet the increasing availability of spatial imagery and location-sensitive applications and technologies has brought location-privacy to the forefront, threatening to negatively impact the practice of public health by inhibiting or severely limiting data-sharing. This study begins by reviewing the current relevant legislation as it pertains to public health and investigates the public health community’s perceptions on location privacy barriers to the practice. Bureaucracy and legislation are identified by survey participants as the two greatest privacy-related barriers to public health. In response to this clash, a number of solutions and workarounds are proposed in the literature to compensate for location privacy. However, as their weaknesses are outlined, a novel approach - the multidimensional point transform - that works synergistically on multiple dimensions, including location, to anonymise data is developed and demonstrated. Finally, a framework for guiding decisions on data-sharing and identifying requirements is proposed and a sample implementation is demonstrated through a fictitious scenario. For each aspect of the study, a tool prototype and/or design for implementation is proposed and explained, and the need for further development of these is highlighted. In summary, this study provides a multi-disciplinary and multidimensional solution to the clash between privacy and data-sharing in public health practice.
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