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In April 2004, a bold experiment by the Infosecurity Tradeshow in London proved what everyone suspected, over 70% of people passing through Liverpool Street Station would reveal their password in exchange for candy (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3639679.stm). Some commentators applauded this validation of a previously unproven assumption about Londoner’s attitudes towards password secrecy. Other commentators had serious ethical concerns with the experiment.
This candy-for-password experiment got me thinking about health privacy/security experiments. Many suspect that the healthcare system has serious human and technical privacy vulnerabilities, but how can we validate this suspicion? Would a patient hand over their provincial health number for a chocolate bar? Would a medical professional hand over a patient’s information for a chai latte? The more I thought about it, the more extreme – and both frightening and funny – the research projects became.