The End of Anonymity, the Beginning of Privacy

Vitaly Shmatikov

Vitaly Shmatikov
University of Texas at Austin

Thursday, January 19, 2011
NSF Stafford I, Room 110

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"We do not collect personally identifiable information"... "This dataset have been de-identified prior to release"... From advertisers tracking Web clicks to biomedical researchers sharing clinical records, anonymization is the main privacy protection mechanism used for sensitive data today.

I will argue that the distinction between "personally identifiable" and "non-personally identifiable" information is fallacious by showing how to infer private information from fully anonymized data in three settings: (1) records of individual transactions and preferences, illustrated by the Netflix Prize dataset, (2) social networks, and (3) recommender systems, where temporal changes in aggregate statistics allow accurate inference of hidden individual transactions.

I will then outline a program for data privacy research. It includes several challenging problems in the design and implementation of privacy-preserving systems, domain-specific algorithmic research, as well as policy and economic issues. work.


Vitaly Shmatikov is an associate professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin. He works on security and privacy. After getting his PhD from Stanford and before joining UT, he worked at SRI on formal methods for security protocol analysis. Most recently, he served as the program co-chair of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS).



Audio: MP3

Transcript (unedited): TXT PDF