After implementing the Statice data anonymization software, the Newsenselab team validated the use of synthetic data to anonymize medical data without breaching the privacy of their application’s users. They successfully anonymized more than 170.000 migraine symptom data points while maintaining a high utility and privacy, allowing the data to be shared compliantly for advancing migraine research. The EU Horizon 2020 framework program funded this project.
M-sense is an offshoot of a Humboldt University Berlin research project. To Newsenselab's team, providing fresh impetus for future migraine research was of the utmost importance.
Personal data of a medical nature are strictly regulated by the GDPR. In Germany, the Digital Healthcare Act (DVG) adds up specific data privacy and security criteria for digital health applications like M-sense. Because of this, most of the user data could not be shared with research partners.
Simply stripping the data off its personally identifying information (PII) was not a practical approach for the team. Even without PII, datasets are potentially able to be linked to open data sources to re-identify individuals.
Thus, the data remained unleveraged. And while users’ privacy was protected, the team could not contribute to migraines’ global research.
Statice's synthetic data solution enabled the Newsenselab team to generate a new dataset from their sensitive user data. Statice evaluated this synthetic data to ensure that it provided comparable statistical value and the highest level of privacy protection.
Synthetic data exhibited the same degree of statistical integrity as the original data. Furthermore, there was no one-to-one relationship between the sensitive medical data and the users, ensuring that no one could determine whether or not the user was part of the original dataset.
The M-sense team validated the ability to share research data in a privacy-preserving manner. The synthetic data complied with existing personal and health data regulations and provided the users with the highest level of privacy. With privacy-preserving synthetic data, Newsenselab hopes to accelerate medical research through collaboration with other healthcare providers and research groups.
“Statice’s data privacy solution offers the possibility to advance fundamental research while completely protecting the data of users.” - Simon Scholler, Head of Research at Newsenselab