Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computational and Data Sciences

First Advisor

Cyril Rakovski

Second Advisor

Daniel Alpay

Third Advisor

Anthony Chang


In this work, first we investigate the use of ECG signal as a biometric in human identification systems using deep learning models. We train convolutional neural network models on ECG samples from approximately 81k patients. Our models achieved an over-all accuracy of 95.69%. Further, we assess the accuracy of our ECG identification model for distinct groups of patients with particular heart conditions and combinations of such conditions. For example, we observed that the identification accuracy was the highest (99.7%) for patients with both ST changes and supraventricular tachycardia. On the other hand, we also found that the identification rate was the lowest for patients diagnosed with both atrial fibrillation and complete right bundle branch block (49%).

Next, we discuss the implications of our findings from the ECG identification models regarding the re-identification risks for the patients and how seemingly anonymized ECG datasets can cause privacy leakages. For some hypothetical scenarios such as when a patient contributes to two different research datasets, we try to quantify the privacy risks. We estimate the probability of how uniquely and accurately one can re-identify patients with a specific type of heart condition contributing to multiple ECG datasets containing data fields like age, gender, and location. We also discuss the new ECG-based demographics detection technology and how it might compromise patients’ privacy even to a degree where someone can find a patient’s residence solely based on an ECG sample. The implications of our findings for the privacy regulations such as HIPAA or GDPR are discussed as well.

In contrast to common traditional belief that statistical aggregate or anonymized databases are safe to share, it can be proven that even aggregation does not guarantee privacy and individuals can be re-identified from the published aggregated results. Differential privacy is a privacy preserving data analysis technique which protects the privacy of individuals’ in a database by adding the right amount of noise to perturbate the results. In the last chapter, we will discuss an end-to-end application of differential privacy to an ECG dataset in order to safely share useful statistics with the public.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Included in

Data Science Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.