Exercising privacy rights in medical science

Hillmer, Michael; Redelmeier, Donald A.
December 2007
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;12/4/2007, Vol. 177 Issue 12, p1542
Academic Journal
Privacy laws are intended to preserve human well-being and improve medical outcomes. We used the Sportstats website, a repository of competitive athletic data, to test how easily these laws can be circumvented. We designed a haphazard, unrepresentative case-series analysis and applied unscientific methods based on an Internet connection and idle time. We found it both feasible and titillating to breach anonymity, stockpile personal information and generate misquotations. We extended our methods to snoop on celebrities, link to outside databases and uncover refusal to participate. Throughout our study, we evaded capture and public humiliation despite violating these 6 privacy fundamentals. We suggest that the legitimate principle of safeguarding personal privacy is undermined by the natural human tendency toward showing off.


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