The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a privacy proposal concerning peer-to-peer technology by computer scientists from Saarland University and the Center for IT Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA), in Germany, and the Italian IMT Institute for Advanced Studies:
A unique approach to crunching website visitor data promises the best of both worlds between accuracy and privacy.
Data leaned from people’s behaviour online is an important tool in everything from marketing to social planning, but consumers lose control over their privacy the more data is collected about them. […]
[The computer scientists’] technology, known as Privada, uses peer-to-peer file sharing as the inspiration to send parts of website visitor data to different servers for processing and storage.
When Privada collects a behavioural metric on visitors (women aged 35-45, for example) it sends it to a third-party server. Other metrics are sent to other servers, so no central database has the complete picture.
Each server then adds up to 10 per cent of data “noise” to their records, enough to keep any single user from being identified and leaving the reassembled data 90 per cent accurate. […]
Thomas P Keenan, adjunct professor of computer science at the University of Calgary and author of the book Technocreep, isn’t convinced.
He refers to a paper written by the Privada team that says the system assumes “the majority of the computation parties are not colluding”, something Dr Keenan considers the “pre-Snowden”world.
“All our internet traffic is being monitored and collected, at least by governments and quite possibly by others,” he said. “Someone with good cryptographic expertise could attack the cryptography if they had enough reason to do it.”
And rather than find better ways to collect data, chief compliance and risk officer Dana Simberkoff, of compliance and governance software vendor AvePoint believes giving users control over what websites collect is even more important.