Designing Statistical Privacy in Big Data

Blowfish (cipher) InfoBox Diagram
Blowfish (cipher) InfoBox Diagram (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The more data we generate about a target population, the harder to protect the privacy of the individuals surveyed. Sensitive information can be inferred most of the time if we have multiple data points or collection procedures for the same individual. For example, Greveler et al. showed how electricity smar

t meter readings can be used to identify the TV shows and movies being watched in a target household. Coull et al. designed a method for identifying the webpages viewed by users from metadata about network flows, even when server IP addresses are replaced with pseudonyms. Goljan and Fridrich showed how cameras can be identified from noise in the images they produce.


All these shortcomings of privacy protections, detailed in Designing Statistical Privacy for Your Data | March 2015 | Communications of the ACM, can only worry privacy advocates. The authors propose, however, a possible approach to deal with the problem, which combines Kerckhoffs’s principle, self-composition, convexity, and closure under post-processing. An example framework, Blowfish, is proposed.


Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social groups. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Structural differentation in social media. He also co-edited Ethical Reasoning in Big Data,Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , all three the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

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