Archive for the 'Search' Category

There is an expiration date on medical privacy

January 23rd, 2008

There are a lot of debates about privacy, and about the balance between privacy and research (or possibly privacy and anything else of utility that can be derived from the private information).

Of all the areas of privacy, one of those where people object the most to violations of their privacy is in health and medical information. You’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone willing to disclose diseases, health problems, and medical examination reports.

And when disclosure of private information occur, people get the most annoyed, or concerned, when it comes to children. It may involve a lot of over-sensitivity, but it’s still the case.

Well, now there’s a new service, for any interested researcher, or any interested Internet user with some free time and a little curiosity. A website that allows to browse a comprehensive set of complete and full, uncensored, medical records from a large hospital for children.

You can search and browse by the real full names of the children[1]. You can get the full diagnoses, what diseases the doctors found when examining these children. For some of the children you can get the full case notes of the doctors who checked the sick children. You can see what were the treatments and medication given to each of these children, and whether they helped.

And you can even get the full, and real, physical home address of the patients. The people who digitized the information on the site actually invested quite a lot to make sure that the addresses are correct and, for example, none of the street names would be misspelled.

Sounds lovely, does it?

So why isn’t there a huge outcry over it? A major violation of privacy and data protection laws. Not to mention children. And it didn’t even hit the news. Why?

Because the details are from 1852 to 1914. Meaning that youngest patients would potentially be 94 years old now. Certainly in no condition to care, or complain, if they’re even alive. Just some interesting past cases for research.

I’m sure their children won’t mind at all that mom’s chronic illnesses are online for everyone to see. Mom is dead, so there’s no point in keeping her secrets, right?

Welcome to Small and Special, the site showing you all the gritty details from the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, in Britain.

A unique database lies at the heart of the Small and Special website. It is based on the information contained in the In-Patient Admission Registers from Great Ormond Street Hospital for the period 1852 to 1914, which have survived intact. The Registers have been carefully transcribed and indexed to allow flexible and accurate searching of this important resource. Users can search for children by name (first and last names), age, sex, and address. Other searchable fields include date of admission and discharge, admitting doctor, outcome of treatment and subsequent referrals (if any).

The database is supplemented by a collection of scanned images from 14 volumes of patient case notes of the founding physician, Dr Charles West. The case notes, which cover a period between 1852 and 1874, contain a wealth of information on the treatment and management of sick children in the mid-Victorian period.

Some of the information is accessible freely. For the rest you need to register. But the registration is easy, free, and they don’t require that you’d prove (or even claim to be) you are a researcher, doctor, or anything.

And what does it say about the future? About my own medical records, or yours? We trust[2] in doctor-patient confidentiality. In privacy laws. In that even if the doctor has to share the details with insurance companies, none of them could, or would, ever just list everything on the Internet for the curious masses.

Anyone having these expectations of privacy about your medical and health records? Just wait about a hundred years or so, and we’ll see. We most definitely will see. Everything. Free for searching and browsing.

After all, our friends in Kingston University are still working:

This outstanding resource will be further enhanced by the inclusion, at a later date, of the surviving Registers for Cromwell House (the Hospital’s convalescent home at Highgate), from 1869 to 1910.

Amusingly enough, when you register to the site they have a privacy policy, and they clearly state they won’t share your personal details with anyone. Which is admirable, and I wish more online services would be so clear about their privacy policy. It’s just that, well, they’d keep my name and email secret, but don’t feel any problem with showing me the names, addresses, medical history, and diagnoses, of many many past-children who never thought to agree to release it.

  1. Some of the names have been anonymised. This is a minority of them. I’m not sure what were the criteria to choose. And even for the anonymous ones, you still have a full home address, just not the name[back]
  2. Want to trust, anyway?[back]

Referrer log roundup, the fifth

July 28th, 2006

It’s time for yet another post where I either mock (usually), or take seriously (rarely), search phrases people typed into search engines just in order to get to… well… here.

These are all real. People actually searched for these phrases I underline here, and for some reason one of the pages found were on this blog.

It so happens that I have a large amount of them lately, so I think I’ll split this batch. A few will come now, and the rest on another post in a few days.

before changing into another lane you should?
Signal. Actually, in your case, if you have to look for this on the Internet then you probably shouldn’t be driving, so it’s a trick question.

everybody is stupid

Buy earplugs. Otherwise you’re the inconsiderate co-worker who forces everyone to work without some music. Or, option two, find some music you like, and play it even louder. Or at least closer. Headphones work too.

friend loaned me their car i was arrested car was impounded how do i get a car out of impound
It’s the friend’s car. I’m afraid the friend will have to go to take it out of impound. Sorry, but if you hope to keep this a secret from your friend, well, life’s hard. On the bright side, maybe this will teach your friend that he, or she, needs a better taste in friends.

why eyelid flickers naturally
Normally for two reasons. The first is that it helps to keep the eye clean, and the second is that it keeps the eye moist. All important if you want to avoid serious eye damage.

LAPD recruit drug usage limit
I’m not sure, but I expect and hope that they put the limit at no usage at all. Yeah, bummer, I know. Looks like you won’t be accepted.

private viewing disqualifies my security clearance
Well, next time when you’re having a security clearance try not to view your privates in public.

what disqualifies you for a security clearance?
Private viewing, apparently. Possibly also drug-usage. Working for the other side is also a good disqualifier. Asking stupid questions usually doesn’t, though, so you may be in the clear.

“long hair” intelligence
Sorry, but so far there is no research indicating a relationship between intelligence and length of hair. Apart from the fact that subjectively many people feel pretty stupid when their hair is so long it drags on the floor and collects dirt, anyway. If you’re a bible reader, though, there is at least one anecdotal reference to a correlation between hair length and strength. But personally I believe muscles are a better indicator for that.

pregnant belly how they look like
Have you seriously never seen a pregnant woman before in your life? Seriously??

what does the acronym lol mean in webmail
I’m still Laughing Out Loud thinking about you getting an email with this and not understanding.

is it illegal to have homework in the summer?

aria words
Your best bet would be to search in the Aria Database. They don’t have everything, but they do have quite a lot.

fully clothed porn links
Someone looking for porn with fully-clothed people… A little unclear on the concept.

REPUBLIC OF cHINA 2005+hotmail address
ways of making legistimate money on the internet
free emailer equipped bcc without any one notice another
+1 “email address of BUSINESS MEN”
Just three of these came from addresses in Nigeria. But we all know what they really want to do, right?

“how to send spam”
This came from Poland. At least they’re honest.

sure fire way to make my money grow
Sorry, dude. If I had one I would have used it myself. But a good one is to study hard, and then work hard. You don’t need me to tell you this, though.

how to annoy people online at aim with aim bots
You don’t have to annoy people with AIM bots. The AIM bots annoy people all by themselves.

I speak Hebrew/Latin to God, English to my friends, Italian to the ladies, Spanish to my maid, and German to my car
So Google is your friend, I take it, since you speak to it in English. Well, let me tell you, you’d get better results out of this friend if you’ll speak to it in a Language it can understand. For example, if you’re looking for a quotation, put the phrase in double-quotes. That will help immensely. Oh, yes, and speak to your therapist about speaking to your car, you need help.

quotes for idiots
quotes for idiotism
I have two right here.

marry is a lesbo
Thanks for sharing. And I was so looking to that date…

perfect women
You won’t find her on the Internet, you dork. You’re looking in the wrong place.

israeli salary in ILS
See, the surprising thing about Israel is that we have this really crazy economic system. Which includes some totally insane stuff like paying different salaries for different jobs in different places. Seriously. Not all Israelis earn the same. Amazing, eh?

killing cockroaches freezing
That will work. But if you already have the cockroach in a box, or a bag, it would be faster and easier to just squish it instead of putting it in the freezer. And there are some more hi-tech alternatives coming soon.

dark chocolate dangers
It tastes good. Which is a very dangerous thing if you’re trying to keep a diet.

secret phone code
The code is… No, wait, sorry, I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.

causes for 2005 minivan engine not to start “after frontal collision”
This is just a wild guess, but I think the reason the engine doesn’t start has something to do with it being smashed in a frontal collision.

Accidental Insulin sprayed in eyes
How did you manage to do THAT? I’m totally flummoxed. Insulin doesn’t come in anything that accidentally sprays. You’ll have to put it into a syringe, and drip it into your eyes on purpose. Which is totally pointless since it doesn’t do much of anything like that. I think the most important thing for you will be to try injecting your insulin when you’re not totally stoned, OK?

unhealthy for eyes to wear sunglasses all the time
No, it isn’t. Not unless you get actual glass lenses, stretch that “all the time” to include when sleeping, and then manage to roll over and break the glass into your eyes. But apart from that you’re perfectly safe as long as the sunglasses are halfway decent. Oh, yes, and as long as it’s not so dark that with the sunglasses you’re blind, because that can cause accidents too.

besides drinking “red bull” other uses include
Funny, I never figured this stuff to be drinkable. You’re way ahead of me in uses of it already, can’t help you, sorry.

Search engine and terminology

May 20th, 2006

Search engines are a pretty hot topic on-line. The big companies keep adding services and features. And new ones keep popping all the time, trying to present new features and techniques in order to get a piece of the market.

And they all get coverage in the news, or do their own press releases.

A couple of those I saw recently had some terminology problems that really irked me, though. I know, I know, reading something about a search engine, and being mostly bothered about a few wrong words is petty. But still.

The first one was a report on Exalead. I’ve played a bit with Exalead beta in the past (Like many other online services these days it has been in beta stage for a long time), and overall it’s pretty nice. It has some nice features and interface ideas, but it does have its quirks and problems as well.

The part that bothered me in the article (well, the terminological issue, anyway. There were a few other article parts I didn’t exactly agree with and that felt more like hype than an actual reporting or review) though, wasn’t in something about Exalead itself. It was in this paragraph describing the competition:

Bourdoncle’s ambition is to crack the top five in Web search, which is now led by Google, followed by Yahoo, Microsoft, Time Warner and Ask.

Everyone heard of Google. And yes, Yahoo is pretty big in search as well, and doing a good job at it. Microsoft has also added some changes and improvement, and are working on getting better search result. And Ask too have increased features and made significant advances, moving from what was once a rather sad search engine to one that seems to have a good chance of gaining a higher position in the top five.

But Time Warner? That made me stop in my tracks reading it. Time Warner have a search engine?! Since when? What are they talking about? Heck, I know and have heard of quite a lot of small, even tiny, search engines, and yet never heard of any Time Warner one. No way it became one of the big five.

And then it hit me. AOL. The guy who wrote that article, Dan Farber is someone with a lot of experiene in the field, and should really know better. Yet he decided that due to the AOL – Time Warner merger it would be correct to refer to AOL’s search engine as Time Warner.

The search engine is AOL. Not Time Warner. Referring to it as Time Warner shows a stunning lack of understanding, and a total lack of connection to anything going on in the search area. I really do hope that this wasn’t in the original post, but was maybe changed by some idiotic marketing guy who is in charge of “correcting” their posts before publishing (Though such a practice is a problem all by itself).

But regardless of how it got there, the second I saw something like that on the article it immediately made everything else there suspect. A reader can’t be expect to trust anything appearing on an article by someone who broadcasts so loudly that he doesn’t have a clue. If he’s capable of referring to Time Warner as a big search engine (and never mind that AOL’s search engine isn’t particularly good, it is big at least) then he’s clueless.

The second case is from a post by Yahoo, about them releasing the Yahoo Answers service from beta.

This post is on Yahoo’s search blog, where supposedly people actually have a clue about search.

And they also provide a link for adding their Yahoo Answers as a search engine in the Firefox browser. There are two problems with that link, however.

The first is a purely technical one. It doesn’t point to a place which adds their Yahoo Answers service as a search engine in Firefox. Instead it directs to the general page for adding search engines to the search bar in Firefox. If someone wants to they can search for the Yahoo Answers there and add it, but that’s not what the idea of linking to adding the search engines is supposed to be. Nor do they explain near the link that people following it will have to go on searching for it manually. Currently there’s a second link from the main page, but that varies, and can change…

The second one is the terminology item which again gave me a start. They referred to the link as one to add Yahoo Answers as a search repository in Firefox. Yes, that’s right, not a search engine, but a search repository.

I have no idea what a search repository is (Someplace where people can keep their searches?), but this is most definitly not it. Firefox doesn’t have support for search repositories. It has a toolbar for search engines. Engines.

You’d expect a company who has a search engine as a major product to know what a search engine is, and that it’s called a search engine. But they apparently don’t.

And those two aren’t all the articles, press releases, and official posts, which contain terminology errors. Just a small sample.

I can allow myself to make mistakes here from time to time. It’s a personal blog, I’m not an authority on anything, and I don’t represent anyone. But for anything official, by a news service or a large company, this is not the case. They shouldn’t make these mistakes. It leaves a really bad impression.