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>On a related note, I read an article yesterday about the proposed new
>Health Data Base, with all encounters with any medical institution or any
>health care provider of any sort being cross-linked and cross-referenced.
>The privacy concerns are supposedly handled by having "security tickets"
>for various hospital officials, researchers (!!), insurance companies, and
>law enforcement. (I put the "!!" next to the "researchers" because I don't
>recall releasing my medical and dietary history to any so-called
>"researchers." While I have no doubt that many "data miners" would like
>access to such national data bases, and that some potentially valuable
>information could be gleaned, I didn't release this information for Joe
>Gradstudent, Ph.D. candidate to sift through.)

its worth noting that mapping the human genome is related to 
health records and privacy issues. essentially scientists have
made tremendous progress in mapping out what diseases are caused
by what genes. much of this is done with the power of correlating
gene mutations with actual health records among the population,
the more the better.

science progresses on openness. there are legitimate reasons to
have large databases of private records. I do believe such things
could be accomplished while protecting the privacy of individuals
yet giving the benefits to researchers.  imagine the concepts
of blinding and zero-knowledge protocols applied to health databases.
it seems reasonable that this can be worked out.

one interesting idea: imagine a system in which "blinding" is 
an accepted and basic form of interaction between patients and
doctors. the patients give only a self-generated ID to the
health care provider. the system is set up such that the 
provider can do all functions necessary to them (keeping
records, billing the insurance company) through the 
"blinding" process. this has a lot of potential. it seems
that we could take the blinding process and possibly push
for it to be an accepted way of doing business.

there's a lot of use for someone to do what Chaum has
done for digital cash, i.e. show that all operations 
necessary to commerce can be supported via blinding-- taking
that kind of mapping, and moving it into all other areas
of human endeavor. even just rewriting his own papers
to be specific to particular fields like the health
arena would be a breakthrough at the moment.

p.s. I fail to see why calling you "timmy" is considered
an ad hominem attack. quite to the contrary, I assure you
it is a term of endearment <g>