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The Failure of Anonymity

ONLINE PRIVACY

August 23, 2010

In the August issue of the UCLA Law Review, Paul Ohm writes about the ways that advancing computer science has "undermined our faith in the privacy-protecting power of anonymization" in his article entitled, "Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization." The article discusses how scientists have learned to "reidentify" or "deanonymize" data, revealing the individuals behind the "anonymous" information. "By understanding this research, we realize we have made a mistake, labored beneath a fundamental misunderstanding, which has assured us much less privacy than we have assumed," the paper's abstract notes, suggesting this error "pervades nearly every information privacy law, regulation and debate, yet regulators and legal scholars have paid it scant attention."
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