mfioretti: anonimity*

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  1. Speaking as a statistician, it is quite easy to identify people in anonymous datasets. There are only so many 5'4" jews living in San Francisco with chronic back pain. Every bit of information we reveal about ourselves will be one more disease that we can track, and another life saved.

    If I want to know whether I will suffer a heart attack, I will have to release my data for public research. In the end, privacy will be an early death sentence.

    Already, health insurers are beginning to offer discounts for people who wear health trackers and let others analyze their personal movements. Many, if not most, consumers in the next generation will choose cash and a longer life in exchange for publicizing their most intimate details.

    What can we tell with basic health information, such as calories burned throughout the day? Pretty much everything.

    With a rudimentary step and calorie counter, I was able to distinguish whether I was having sex or at the gym, since the minute-by-minute calorie burn profile of sex is quite distinct (the image below from my health tracker shows lots of energy expended at the beginning and end, with few steps taken. Few activities besides sex have this distinct shape)
    https://medium.com/the-ferenstein-wir...rs-of-history-in-50-images-614c26059e
    Voting 0
  2. FREQUENT visitors to the Hustler Club, a gentlemen’s entertainment venue in New York, could not have known that they would become part of a debate about anonymity in the era of “big data”. But when, for sport, a data scientist called Anthony Tockar mined a database of taxi-ride details to see what fell out of it, it became clear that, even though the data concerned included no direct identification of the customer, there were some intriguingly clustered drop-off points at private addresses for journeys that began at the club. Stir voter-registration records into the mix to identify who lives at those addresses (which Mr Tockar did not do) and you might end up creating some rather unhappy marriages.

    The anonymisation of a data record typically means the removal from it of personally identifiable information. Names, obviously. But also phone numbers, addresses and various intimate details like dates of birth. Such a record is then deemed safe for release to researchers, and even to the public, to make of it what they will. Many people volunteer information, for example to medical trials, on the understanding that this will happen.

    But the ability to compare databases threatens to make a mockery of such protections.
    http://www.economist.com/news/science...n?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/ed/Wellseeyouanon
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