Your Privacy No Longer Protected with Your MRI Scans

You do not want to go to the hospital for brain scans, but if you have to, they can be used to reconstruct your face. What is next? A computer can recognize that is you by comparing the reconstructed face to a photograph database. Effect? Even having your name and all other identification information removed from medical records, your privacy is no longer a guarantee.

That scenario above is becoming a reality, according to a research investigation led by Christopher Schwarz, a computer scientist of Mayo Clinic, which was recently published on the New England Journal of Medicine (entitled, “Identification of Anonymous MRI Research Participants with Face-Recognition Software”).

“It is clear that eventually this will be a worrying attack”, warned Dr. Aaron Roth, computer scientist and privacy expert at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Michael Weiner of the University of California, San Francisco echoed this concern, citing the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, which he directed, as a potential target.

How do we fix it? Not simple. Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye of Imperial College London, a privacy expert, questioned whether an easy fix even is possible.

The New York Times wrote about this study here.