IDG News talks with researchers who did a study on “anonymization” of Web site users.
Web sites that strip personally identifiable information about their users and then share that data may be compromising their users’ privacy, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.
They took a close look at the way anonymous data can be analyzed and have come to some troubling conclusions. In a paper set to be delivered at an upcoming security conference, they showed how they were able to map out the connections on public social networks such as Twitter and Flickr. They were then able to identify people who were on both networks by looking at the many connections surrounding their network of friends. The technique isn’t 100 percent effective, but it may make some users uncomfortable about whether they should allow their data to be shared in an anonymous format. […]
The technique described by the University of Texas researchers could be used by government agencies looking to do surveillance or by online marketers or even scammers who want to target people with their messages. And it doesn’t only apply to social networks. This method could be used to identify users in databases of phone calls too, the researchers say.