A generalized method for re-identifying people in "anonymized" data-sets

"Anonymized data" is one of those holy grails, like "healthy ice-cream" or "selectively breakable crypto" -- if "anonymized data" is a thing, then companies can monetize their surveillance dossiers on us by selling them to all comers, without putting us at risk or putting themselves in legal jeopardy (to say nothing of the benefits to science and research of being able to do large-scale data analyses and then publish them along with the underlying data for peer review without posing a risk to the people in the data-set, AKA "release and forget"). Read the rest

The most interesting thing about the "Thanksgiving Effect" study is what it tells us about the limits of data anonymization

Late last year, a pair of economists released an interesting paper that used mobile location data to estimate the likelihood that political polarization had shortened family Thanksgiving dinners in 2016. Read the rest

You can unscramble the hashes of humanity's 5 billion email addresses in ten milliseconds for $0.0069

Marketing companies frequently "anonymize" their dossiers on internet users using hashes of their email addresses -- rather than the email addresses themselves -- as identifiers in databases that are stored indefinitely, traded, sold, and leaked. Read the rest

An incredibly important paper on whether data can ever be "anonymized" and how we should handle release of large data-sets

Even the most stringent privacy rules have massive loopholes: they all allow for free distribution of "de-identified" or "anonymized" data that is deemed to be harmless because it has been subjected to some process. Read the rest

Fitness app releases data-set that reveals the location of sensitive military bases, patrol routes, aircrew flightpaths, and individual soldiers' jogging routes

Strava is a popular fitness route-tracker focused on sharing the maps of your workouts with others; last November, the company released an "anonymized" data-set of over 3 trillion GPS points, and over the weekend, Institute for United Conflict Analysts co-founder Nathan Ruser started a Twitter thread pointing out the sensitive locations and details revealed by the release. Read the rest

A comprehensive guide to corporate online surveillance in everyday life

Cracked Labs' massive report on online surveillance by corporations dissects all the different ways in which our digital lives are tracked, from the ad-beacons that follow us around the web to the apps that track our physical locations as we move around the world. Read the rest