> speaking on
> Privacy and Anonymity in a World of
> Arvind Narayanan is a post-doctoral
computer science researcher at
> Stanford University and a junior affiliate
scholar at the Center for
> Internet and Society, housed at Stanford
Law School and a part of
> the Law, Science and Technology Program.
Arvind completed his Ph.D,
> which exposed the problems with data
anonymization, at the University
> of Texas, and now studies privacy from a
> focusing on the intersection between
technology, law and policy.
> Arvind will describe the issues around the
privacy and anonymity of
> online consumers in this age of massive
data collection from internet
> sites and mobile applications. His
doctoral thesis, in a sentence,
> is that the level of anonymity that
consumers expect—and companies
> claim to provide—in published or
outsourced databases is fundamentally
by explaining that when fingerprints were discovered about 100 years
ago it was a huge breakthrough in criminal justice. No longer was it
possible for a criminal to escape because they couldn't be proven to
have been there. The idea that everybody could be uniquely identified
took on a life of its own in the public imagination. Since then the
field of privacy law has developed a lot.
showed us pictures of many other things that also now are known to have
unique fingerprints. Computers have unique ID's from manufacturing
requirements. Old typewriters have unique ID's because life has worn
their keys in individual ways. Digital cameras have unique ID's because
every camera is just slightly less than perfect in a different way, and
the differences can be spotted by sophisticated computers with the
right test algorithms. Even a blank piece of paper can be uniquely
identified by its grain.
explained that such information is important to know about. Consider a
blogger that is providing information about an awful regime. If their
identity isn't known they are relatively safe. If their camera gives
them away they could be apprehended. Then he explained that pictures
can be "derezed" to hide such information by reducing the detail level
to less than 70% of that in the original shot.
are also digital footprints to be watched out for. It turns out that
87% of us can be uniquely identified just by our zip codes, birthday,
and sex. Any anonymous database that holds those clues can be at least
partly broken into by comparing those characteristics with public
information. Arvind talked about a couple of major data dumps that had
simply released too much information about individual people for their
privacy to be guaranteed by the companies that promised it.
During Q&A the following came up:
Arvind is a
big fan of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He recommends
giving them money, because it will be well spent.
know if the spy drone that was captured by the Iranians was "hacked out
of the sky" by a computer attack or if it was jammed or simply fell
because of equipment failure or whatever.
cookies from your browser is an important part of data privacy.