[LINK] Deanonymization, simply gender, ZIP code and birthdate

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Wed Oct 21 19:51:53 AEDT 2009

Sylvano quoted: http://www.mrweb.com/drno/news10721.htm

and Marghanita noted: http://similar-images.googlelabs.com

On the related issue of personal privacy, the EFF have recently published:


"In 1997, a Carnegie Mellon computer science professor showed that the 
combination of *gender, ZIP code and birthdate* is unique for about 87%
of the U.S. population. 

If you live in the United States, there's an 87% chance that you don't 
share these three attributes with any other United States resident.(snip)


(And) Privacy law, mainly clinging to a traditional intuitive notion of 
identifiability, has largely not kept up with the technical reality.

Statistical inference and clever use of databases has resulted in 
impressive examples of deanonymization of supposedly anonymous data. 

Given the number of variables that potentially distinguish us, we are 
much more different from each other than we expect, and there are more 
sources of data than we realize that may be used to narrow down exactly 
who a particular record refers to. 

Real-world attacks will .. get worse.

We (EFF) hope 'Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising 
Failure of Anonymization' http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?

encourages people who work with personal data to think more critically 
about their retention and sharing practices and the effectiveness of the 
anonymization or pseudonymization techniques they're using. 

We also hope it finds a broad audience and helps start a wider discussion 
among researchers, technologists, and lawyers about what "privacy 
protection" should mean in the era of deanonymization."



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