Tuesday, June 22, 2010

They know who you are...

At the end of a fascinating article about on-line commenters, this gem:
While news organizations debate scrapping anonymity, the ground may be shifting beneath them. With all of our identifying information getting sliced, diced, and sold, by everyone from credit card companies to Facebook, is there really such a thing as the anonymous Web anymore? Consider this demonstration from the late ’90s by Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Latanya Sweeney. She took three commonly available data points: sex (male), ZIP code (02138), and date of birth (July 31, 1945). Those seemingly anonymous attributes could have described lots of people, right? Actually, no. She proved they could belong to just one person: former governor William Weld. She tells me that 87 percent of Americans can now be identified with just these three data points.
Maybe the best approach to getting people to behave better online is just reminding them how easy it is to figure out who they really are. [More] [My emphasis]
I'll bet the number is even higher for rural areas.

1 comment:

Bill Harshaw said...

Yes, but who cares, at least for retired codgers like myself? I don't see a motive for picking me out of the crowd. Once you can identify Gov. Weld, what have you gained? It's rather like leaving your door unlocked or your car running and unattended, it all depends on what's inside the house or how nice the car is.