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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

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

The winners and losers of the pandemic holiday season

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.