Does de-identification work or not?

Daniel Barth-Jones writes:

In a FierceBigData article which ran last Wednesday, Pam Baker posed some compelling questions regarding a recent “Big Data and Innovation, Setting the Record Straight:De-identification Does Work” whitepaper (.pdf) released by Ann Cavoukian, the Ontario information and privacy commissioner, and Daniel Castro, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Senior Analyst. Of these, the most salient question was also the simplest: “Does de-identification work or not?

How we answer this question really boils down to whether we will define de-identification as “working” only if it provides absolute privacy guarantees. Or whether, as we do with many other areas of life (like door locks, seatbelts and other protections), we accept a dramatic reduction from the original risks (without the protection in place) as being worthwhile.

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