Privacy preserving linkage using multiple dynamic match keys

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Sean Randall Adrian P Brown Anna M Ferrante James H Boyd
Published online: May 23, 2019

Available and practical methods for privacy preserving linkage have shortcomings: methods utilising anonymous linkage codes provide limited accuracy while methods based on Bloom filters have proven vulnerable to frequency-based attacks.

In this paper, we present and evaluate a novel protocol that aims to meld both the accuracy of the Bloom filter method with the privacy achievable through the anonymous linkage code methodology.

The protocol involves creating multiple match-keys for each record, with the composition of each match-key depending on attributes of the underlying datasets being compared. The protocol was evaluated through de-duplication of four administrative datasets and two synthetic datasets; the ‘answers’ outlining which records belonged to the same individual were known for each dataset. The results were compared against results achieved with un-encoded linkage and other privacy preserving techniques on the same datasets.

The multiple match-key protocol presented here achieved high quality across all datasets, performing better than record-level Bloom filters and the SLK, but worse than field-level Bloom filters.

The presented method provides high linkage quality while avoiding the frequency based attacks that have been demonstrated against the Bloom filter approach. The method appears promising for real world use.

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