Data Anonymization: Personal Data in Disguise

We celebrated International Data Privacy Day not too long ago, on January 28. International Data Privacy Day aims to inform people about various data protection rules and regulations, their related rights, and not to tolerate activities that abuse or misuse their personal data.

We’ll be covering related topics in our next few blog posts – first, we’ll discuss data anonymization.

data anonymization

But what is data anonymization?

Data anonymization is the process of removing or obscuring personally identifiable information from a database, while still maintaining the integrity of the data for analysis and research purposes. This allows organizations to share or use sensitive data without risking the privacy of individuals, preventing the unauthorized use, accidental or intentional leakage of personal data.

Why is data anonymization important?

The importance of data anonymization in the field of data protection is growing, as personal data is stored and processed increasingly often. The protection of personal data is generally regulated by the European Union’s GDPR Regulation, which went into effect on May 25, 2018.
In addition, supervisory bodies often impose even stricter rules in the financial sector, requiring the use of fully anonymized personal data in development and test environments.

For which organizations and companies is data anonymization relevant?

In general, data anonymization is important for any company or organization that handles large amounts of personal data. These are, typically, not only banks and insurance companies, but also telecommunications service providers and even large retailers that, for example, store and process the personal data of their customers in their loyalty programs.

In addition, the relevance of data anonymization in the field of healthcare is growing, as public or private healthcare providers also handle a significant amount of personal data (moreover, highly sensitive health data).

How can personal data be anonymized?

Data anonymization can be performed in basically three ways:

  • by removing personally identifiable information
  • by fully encoding the data
  • by “masking” the data using randomly generated pseudonyms

The basic goal of protecting personal data can be achieved by following the first two methods. However, if the database containing personal data is used in a software development and testing environment, where routine development and testing processes take place (and the data must be protected in such cases as well!), it is important that they remain meaningful and consistent – by using meaningless codes or missing personal data, this condition is not met.

The solution: Data Anonym

This is where Data Anonym, DSS Consulting’s data anonymization software, can come in handy, as it

  • “speaks Hungarian”: a dictionary-based solution optimized for the Hungarian language environment (and, it can be optimized for other languages as well);
  • is flexible: provides a wide range of options for keeping the business logic on anonymized data, such as the ability to set the difference between the original and anonymized date of birth, the degree of deviation from the original address, etc.;
  • it is capable of anonymizing personal data in several systems: if a customer’s personal data is stored in two systems, their personal data will remain the same in both systems even after it has been anonymized;
  • provides complete consistency between the original and the anonymized data.

With Data Anonym, the new, anonymized database will contain meaningful (yet fictitious) personal data for software developers and testers. Contact us if you have any questions about data anonymization.