Genome Privacy: Challenges, Technical Approaches to Mitigate Risk, and Ethical Considerations in the United States

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Accessing and integrating human genomic data with phenotypes is important for biomedical research. Making genomic data accessible for research purposes, however, must be handled carefully to avoid leakage of sensitive individual information to unauthorized parties and improper use of data. In this article, we focus on data sharing within the scope of data accessibility for research. Current common practices to gain biomedical data access are strictly rule based, without a clear and quantitative measurement of the risk of privacy breaches. In addition, several types of studies require privacy-preserving linkage of genotype and phenotype information across different locations (e.g., genotypes stored in a sequencing facility and phenotypes stored in an electronic health record) to accelerate discoveries. The computer science community has developed a spectrum of techniques for data privacy and confidentiality protection, many of which have yet to be tested on real-world problems. In this article, we discuss clinical, technical, and ethical aspects of genome data privacy and confidentiality in the United States, as well as potential solutions for privacy-preserving genotype-phenotype linkage in biomedical research.

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Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2016