Safemerge v2 released

May 24th, 2013 by admin

May 2013 – Building on Sapior’s market lead in enabling ethical data sharing, a new version of the SafeMerge cloud-based de-identification service has been released.

Suitable for projects of multiple parties that must both contribute data and collect it, SafeMerge is the breach risk free way to go. Sapior takes care of all the security heavy lifting and so makes participating in data sharing projects simple and secure. Getting consistent pseudonyms across all contributors of data is now trivial.

As long as you can remember a browser password then all other encryption details are taken care of for you (no salts, hashes, phone calls or emails with linkage passwords!).

Because this technology has been reviewed by the NHS’ Ethics and Confidentiality Committee [ECC 5-04(b)/2011] you can be assured that all the hard questions have been asked and answered. SafeMerge is the most secure means to share health data that meets or exceeds all current NHS guidelines.

Unlike the NHS’s central HSCIC facility, no patient data is ever visible in transit between sender and receiver. With Sapior you can rest assured breach risks are under control without worrying about the liability issues of using HSCIC’s ‘central database’ approach.

You must have an up to date Java installed on your PC (for the encryption processing) and any delimited data is acceptable. Pricing is per download of de-identified linkable data.

Give it a go by visiting here, your first 2 downloads are free!

That old “need to balance privacy and sharing” chestnut

October 25th, 2012 by Rob Navarro

The Cameron government has re-opened the debate on how much of our patient data is accessible to others who are not directly caring for us. Dame Fiona Caldicott has been tasked with the review and was just quoted as having been influenced by the NHS’ Future Forum question “where does the balance between privacy and sharing lie?”.

Whilst many a conference and report on health data sharing has concluded with the same question, it is actually the case that we need not resort to such a desperate last measure. It would be a truly dismal world if for the health economy to grow a patient’s trust in their health data needs to suffer. This is clearly an idea of “last resort”.

The reader will be pleasantly surprised to learn that in fact there is no need to sip from that poisoned chalice.

It turns out such “last resort” thinking is a product of staring at shared database designs (e.g. safe havens, shared warehouse, trusted data linking services etc). Having picked this way to solve the problem one finds oneself marched quickly to the aforementioned iniquitous balance. (“Do patients or the health economy matter more?”)

If instead one asks the question “how can we find potential research subjects whilst preserving patient privacy?” (say) then the floor is opened to more palatable solutions. In this case the patient qualifying criteria are sent to GP computers whose GP’s can then choose whether to contact their matching patients or not. Patients always have rights of refusal.

Now imagine the poor soul who simply copies a system design from Banking and wants to build a database to find research subjects. This now needs to include everyone to ensure all rare characteristics are included (and some would argue to be unbiased). All UK patients! Lickety spit we are right back at the “balance question”.

That projects like the Research Capability Programme (now CPRD?) or Predictive Analytics for Commissioners (calling on new safe havens) hit the same “balance” question is not surprising. It also doesn’t mean the question needs answering either!

What is called for (and I respectfully call out to Dame Caldicott to take note) is focused attention on how individual projects can get just the data they need. Some guiding principles that always help simplify matters:

1) Supply the least information that answers the question (“zero knowledge” techniques included)
2) Ensure the least number of people have access to the data for the smallest period of time
3) Patients always get quibble-free opt outs
4) De-identify the data when extracting from its “home” base (part of 1. above)
5) Attempt to measure the illicit re-identification risk to patients of each project

This kind of scheme makes it easy to seek patient or physician consent that is meaningful because the purpose for collecting is singular and well understood (As are the names of staff accessing the data). Sometimes it also justifies opt-out if the re-identification risks are measurably low enough.

The future is bright, let’s not get bogged down in questions of “balance” when better paths exist that protect patients AND help grow the health economy.

Self service Pseudo service launched

March 29th, 2012 by Rob Navarro

March 2012 – Sapior has launched a self service way to de-identify or pseudonymise sensitive data via its cloud servers.

Responding to requests to keep costs low, Sapior has launched a new service for users with sensitive data to initiate the de-identification process themselves. Once the CSV file has been selected, it is encrypted and then uploaded to Sapior. Once the file has been pseudonymised and the fields formatted back into a usable form, the user is emailed and able to download. Costs are dependent on job complexity with 2 free jobs to help assess suitability. Java is required to use this service (see

The self-service pseudo is built upon the Sapior zero-breach-risk eTTP platform. As such Sapior manages all the user salts/keys and is never able to view a single byte of unencrypted data and is therefore unable to breach the privacy of that data. This means there is no need to enter into a data sharing agreement (under the DPA’98) prior to using the service.

Unlike competitive offerings Sapior’s cloud service manages all secret salts and keys. The user is never expected to manage keys in order to get secure or linkable data. Data de-identified with the same account will be linkable across different data sets. Take comfort that Sapior’s research and development prevents you from falling into the most serious security traps and improve your productivity with our unparalleled ease of use.

Your search for a secure data de-identification and linking service is over! Try it today by clicking here.

Sapior receives PIAG commendation for data privacy technology

June 28th, 2010 by admin

30 March 2009 – De-identification specialist Sapior Ltd announces it has received a commendation from the Patient Information Advisory Group (PIAG) (now National Information Governance Board – NIGB).

Sapior is working with St. George’s University of London to develop a groundbreaking privacy-enhanced data collection process called SAPReL (Secure And Private Record Linkage).

St. George’s and Sapior made a joint application for support under section 251 to link routinely collected primary care data, data from the IAPT programme in the demonstration sites, and the secondary uses service. PIAG has approved this access to patient-identifiable data for the purpose of pseudonymising or de-identifying it for use in a cohort study.

In its provisional approval letter, the Advisory Group described the application to be “an exemplar”.

“Members noted the use of technology in the pseudonymisation process to be highly commendable and an example of best practice in order to achieve the pseudonymisation process.” (Source: PIAG Meeting Minutes, Monday 8th December 2008, pg. 10)

“Our flexible data harvesting solution removes identifiable information at the data source in a consistent way to allow the vital ability to link with other sources,” says Robert Navarro, Managing Director of Sapior Ltd. “This means researchers can develop a more comprehensive view of an individual’s record whilst still protecting the sensitive data during use.”

Pseudonymised data not subject to Data Protection says EC

June 28th, 2010 by admin

23 July 2007

Financial justification for pseudonymisation to mitigate privacy breaches

The European Commission on Data Protection (DP) has defined Pseudonymised data as non-personal data and not subject to the Data Protection Directive in certain instances. This new position effectively permits organisations to meet DP responsibilities more economically when sharing data with partners, as in the case of cross-border data flows which have previously required expensive, complex, and time-consuming contracts.

In its “Opinion 4/2007 on the concept of personal data”, the European Commission Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP) clarified the notion of “personal data” thus enhancing legal certainty through the uniform interpretation of the EC Directive 95/46/EC. Adopted on 20th June 2007, the document describes the following conditions necessary to consider Pseudonymised data as non-personal data and thus not subject to the Directive:

  • the Data Controller pseudonymises or key-codes Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to be given to a Data Processor that does not receive the key
  • the goal of the processing must not be to identify individuals and influence or treat them differently from others.

In addition, the WP clarified its position on “retraceably pseudonymised” data which may be considered indirectly identifiable and thus subject to the Directive. If the linking to the individual is done by the Data Controller only under predefined circumstances, the risks to the individuals are considered to be low. In these cases, the WP claims the application of the Directive will be more flexible than if information on directly identifiable individuals were processed.

The Opinions of the WP can be found at:

“This enhanced legal certainty finally provides an economic justification for those organisations who have delayed implementing pseudonymisation in their privacy breach mitigation strategies,” said Robert Navarro, Managing Director of Sapior Ltd.

About Pseudonymisation

Pseudonymisation, a Privacy Enhancing Technology (PET), is essentially the replacement of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) – such as name, address or account number – with pseudonyms. Key-coded data are a classical example of pseudonymisation. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is earmarked by codes, while the link between the code and the PII (like name, date of birth, address, etc.) is kept separately. Pseudonymised data can be used for audits, research, analysis, and administrative tasks or other work that requires access to relationships and trends in the data but not to PII.

BT Selects Sapior to Secure NHS Patient Data

June 28th, 2010 by admin

1 September 2005 – Sapior Ltd. announces that BT has awarded Sapior a nine-year contract to enhance data security and privacy for the new NHS Care Records Service. The Sapior Redbridge ES pseudonymisation solution will be used to de-identify sensitive patient information for use in secondary medical purposes rather than direct patient care.

Sapior has been selected as one of a number of suppliers working with prime contractor BT on the NHS Care Records service. This national patient record database will be one of the largest in the world and will eventually contain a summary care record for every NHS patient in England. The use of the Sapior pseudonymisation solution will ensure the confidentiality of these data, whilst they are being used for secondary activities such as financial transfers, management information and medical research.

“Sapior offers a mature, forward-looking data privacy solution that integrates easily and already meets significant future requirements,” explains Rob Story, NHS Care Records Service programme director, BT. “Sapior has been extremely responsive to the demands of this ambitious project.”

“Our significant experience in Business Intelligence enables us to understand and provide for the unique security needs of sensitive data being analysed or shared over extended time periods, as well as to accommodate the performance required by such a massive database,” said Robert Navarro, Managing Director of Sapior Ltd.

Pseudonymisation, a Privacy Enhancing Technology (PET), has been suggested by the UK Information Commissioner as a way to permit necessary access to patient information whilst hiding patient identities and other sensitive information. Also known as “reversible anonymisation”, pseudonymisation is essentially the replacement of identifiers – such as name, address or NHS number – with pseudonyms. Pseudonymised data can be used for audits, research, and administrative tasks or other work that requires access to relationships and trends in the data but not necessarily to all of the sensitive patient information.

More information about the NHS Care Records Service (CRS) Secondary Usage Service (SUS) can be found at:

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