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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Technology has advanced to the point where research study participants can be identified by their MRI scans even after all other identifying information has been stripped, according to an experiment detailed yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine and reported on by the New York Times.

Why it matters: If stored medical data were leaked, it could potentially be used to identify study participants for marketing, scams or even stalking.

The big picture, per the WSJ: These "results are the latest to find technology has outflanked privacy protections in health care, where an aggressive push is under way to amass and mine medical data from patient medical records, research, medical devices and consumer technology such as smartwatches."

Details: An MRI includes a person's entire head, and imaging technology is advanced enough to create a reconstruction of the face from the scan.

  • That facial reconstruction can then be matched, in some circumstances, to a photo of the person who received the scan via facial recognition software, NYT reports.

Yes, but: The experiment, performed by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, included only 84 subjects. Some privacy experts question whether the process could be replicated among a larger population with current technology.

Our thought bubble: With ever more advanced AI, details about our bodies and behaviors — even data we’ve long forgotten we’ve shared — can come back to identify us.

Go deeper: Medical AI has a big data problem

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

2 hours ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

3 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.