Safe Harbor and the calendar rollover problem

Should the journal retract the paper?!No additional information is conveyed by the passage of time per se.

However, if we knew in 2018 that the woman in question was still alive, and we also know that she’s alive now in 2019, we have more information.

Knowing that someone born in 1930 is alive in 2019 is more informative than knowing that the same person was alive in 2018; there are fewer people in the former category than in the latter category.

The hypothetical journal article, committed to print in 2018, does not become more informative in 2019.

But an online version of the article, revised with new information in 2019 implying that the woman in question is still alive, does become more informative.

No law can cover every possible use of data, and it would be a bad idea to try.

Such a law would be both overly restrictive in some cases and not restrictive enough in others.

HIPAA’s expert determination provision allows a statistician to say, for example, that the above scenario is OK, even though it doesn’t satisfy the letter of the Safe Harbor rule.

Related postsWhy are dates of service singled out under Safe Harbor?Information theoryWhat is differential privacy?.

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