SQLServerCentral Editorial

Not So Anonymous


There are many places that collect data about each of us, and while we may be unaware of some, for the most part we know that any data that we type into a form or submit on paper, will be maintained in one (or more) systems at a company. Or at least we should be aware of that.

However many companies seek to anonymize the data when they aggregate it. For example, if my friend Dean rates Halo 3 on Amazon when he makes a purchase, when I view that item, I can't trace back the 89% of people that bought this after viewing to Dean. Or I shouldn't be able to. The same thing for ratings on places like Netflix and other similar sites.

However that may not be true. This is an interesting article about de-anonymizing data, using a variety of techniques to determine who might have input the data. It's an amazing feat of reverse data mining that is interesting to read about. There's a link to the research PDF in the article that many of you might find interesting or scary, depending on your viewpoint.

As more and more data gets released into the world, this could become a problem. I'm not exactly sure how, but I know criminals are very, very smart and if there's a way to exploit this, they'll find it.

It's actually amazing that someone would even think to do this. Maybe I'm naive, but I wouldn't ever think to de-construct this data for any reason, but then again, I would never have thought about many of the security holes that I've learned about over the years.

Surveys, polls, opinions, all provide valuable data to both companies and the government. They allow for decisions to be made and products produced that shift and change with the attitudes of those affected. I tend to participate in many of them, just to be sure that my voice is heard.

Kind of like voting.

It's disheartening to think that people might not participate any longer because of issues like this. And it definitely brings to mind that any database, even one that stores your opinions of movies, should be secured, and the data not necessarily publicly available.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcasts

Everyday Jones

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