New Study Shows Anonymous Data Isn't Very Anonymous At All

from the hear-that? dept

We've pointed out time and time again that there's really no such thing as an anonymized dataset. Given the data, it's almost always easy enough to at least connect some of it back to a real person. It looks like there's now some research to support that. Steven Hoy points us to a new paper where some researchers wrote an algorithm that takes anonymized data from social networks and connects it back to names and addresses of individuals:
We present a framework for analyzing privacy and anonymity in social networks and develop a new re-identification algorithm targeting anonymized social-network graphs. To demonstrate its effectiveness on real-world networks, we show that a third of the users who can be verified to have accounts on both Twitter, a popular microblogging service, and Flickr, an online photo-sharing site, can be re-identified in the anonymous Twitter graph with only a 12% error rate.
Basically, the researchers are saying that anonymized data isn't really anonymous -- and social networks that insist they're "safe" because they've anonymized the data are being somewhat disingenuous.

Filed Under: anonymity, anonymous data, social networks


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  1. identicon
    TheStuipdOne, 27 Mar 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Isn't that difficult

    Take for instance me on this site. While I acknowledge that IP address isn't anonymous if you just use geographic information from the IP you can get a pretty good idea of who I am.

    When I post on this site from work the IP logging would see an IP from corporate headquarters (I think). When I post from home you'd see the IP from my home. Knowing that from my posts what profession I'm in it wouldn't be too difficult to find a company headquarterd in area A with an office in area B that does the type of work I claim to be doing.

    So while this example doesn't give my name and address it does show more information than I've posted to this site to anyone who cares to look

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