our dark future

Metadata and the Lie of Anonymity

Whenever some company or government organization unveils some massive, privacy invading technology, the reveal is always immediately accompanied with qualifications that "don't worry, the data is anonymized." PR departments assure us that trustworthy computer code scrubs everything that could identify us individually from the vat of indistinguishable data. Of course that's just a convenient lie. Researchers from Stanford published a paper today entitled "Evaluating the privacy properties of telephone metadata" in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research attempts to quantify just how much individual information can be gathered from "anonymous" metadata. It turns out it's a lot. The study used 800 volunteers... read more »