For the Paranoid at Heart: New Privacy Concerns from Columbia University and Google

September 23, 2016

The article on PhysOrg titled Location Data on Two Apps Enough to Identify Someone, Says Study illustrates the inadequacy of deleting names and personal details from big data sets. Location metadata undermines the anonymity of this data. Researchers at Columbia University and Google teamed up to establish that individuals can easily be identified simply by comparing their movements across two data sets. The article states,

What this really shows is that simply removing identifying information from large-scale data sets is not sufficient,” said Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab who was not involved in the study. “We need to move to a model of privacy-through-security. Instead of anonymizing data and making it public, there should be technical controls over who gets access to the data, how it is used, and for what purpose.

Just by bringing your phone with you, (and who doesn’t?) you create vast amounts of location metadata about yourself, often without your knowledge. As more and more apps require you to offer your location, it becomes less difficult for various companies to access the data. If you are interested in exploring how easy it is to figure out your identity based on your social media usage, visit You Are Where You Go.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 23, 2016
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