Dr King Davis Explains the Privacy Dangers of Digitizing Archives, Including Psychiatric Records

May 24, 2019

More and more archives and databases, including psychiatric hospital records, are being digitized for preservation, but this can present privacy risks from hacking, cautioned King Davis, PhD, faculty member, University of Texas at Austin School of Information.

More and more archives and databases, including psychiatric hospital records, are being digitized for preservation, but this can present privacy risks from hacking, cautioned King Davis, PhD, faculty member, University of Texas at Austin School of Information.

Transcript

As databases and archives become digitized, how does that affect the access and privacy of psychiatric records?

It puts everything at risk. There’s nothing in a digital database, and we all know that very clearly, from the lawsuits that have been there, from the access to banking records, DNA records. Particularly I guess over the last several days, there has been a lot of discussion whether or not, I think it’s a DNA database that police around the country have been using to track down serial murderers or persons who committed crimes from years ago. There’s been some real question raised about that.

So we don’t think that we have the expertise at this point to be able to say with assurance that those records that are in an electronic database are not going to be hacked. That’s certainly possible. Wikileaks, Facebook, all of these mechanisms have been hacked. So part of what we think is valuable and one of the recommendations that we make is that we think there ought to be a federal standard, a federal policy, a federal requirement, that all of the states could really begin to look at and decipher as the most meaningful way that they could protect the identities of persons, given the possibility of hacking.