Anonymous Data is Not That Anonymous

It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when you’re told that your data is being stored anonymously. One academic found that it is very easy to identify the person the data refers to. Indeed, they could reidintify up to 99.8 per cent of Americans. They explained their solution to the New Scientist.

Data anonymization is supposed to be irreversible, but it’s relatively easy to reverse engineer the process, as Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye at Imperial College London and colleagues have found. This is because the more pieces of data you have about someone the more likely it becomes they are the only person who fits the bill. However, all is not lost. New techniques will help the fight for privacy, as De Montjoye explains… “We developed a machine learning model to assess the likelihood of reidentifying the right person. We took datasets and we showed that in the US fifteen characteristics, including age, gender, marital status and others, are sufficient to reidentify 99.98 per cent of Americans in virtually any anonymised data set.”

Check It Out: Anonymous Data is Not That Anonymous

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