Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why You Can’t Really Anonymize Your Data

Pete Warden:

All the known examples of this type of identification are from the research world — no commercial or malicious uses have yet come to light — but they prove that anonymization is not an absolute protection. In fact, it creates a false sense of security. Any dataset that has enough information on people to be interesting to researchers also has enough information to be de-anonymized. This is important because I want to see our tools applied to problems that really matter in areas like health and crime.

I’ve long suspected this to be the case, but I didn’t realize that it had already been studied. I wonder whether anything interesting could be deanonymized out of consolidated.db. It doesn’t worry me personally, but it would be nice if Apple provided a way to opt out.

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