What the Surprising Failure of Data Anonymization Means for Law and Policy

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
6:00 – 7:15 pm panel discussion
7:15 – 8:00 pm reception
Nobili Hall

Paul Ohm, Associate Professor of Law
University of Colorado Law School

with commentary by

Cynthia Dwork, Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft

Chad Raphael, Associate Professor of Communication, Santa Clara University

audio recording of event

Computer scientists have recently undermined our faith in the privacy-protecting power of anonymization, the name for techniques for protecting the privacy of individuals in large databases by deleting information like names and social security numbers. These scientists have demonstrated they can often ‘reidentify’ or ‘deanonymize’ individuals hidden in anonymized data with astonishing ease. By understanding this research, we will realize we have made a mistake, labored beneath a fundamental misunderstanding, which has assured us much less privacy than we have assumed. This mistake pervades nearly every information privacy law, regulation, and debate, yet regulators and legal scholars have paid it scant attention. In this talk, Professor Ohm will discuss what policymakers and lawyers must do to respond to the surprising failure of anonymization.

For information on research related to privacy issues in data analysis click here.

Speaker bios

Paul Ohm Paper: “Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization”

This event will qualify for one hour of MCLE. Santa Clara Law is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider.

Part of the IT, Ethics & Law Colloquium Series cosponsored by the High Tech Law Institute; the Center for Science, Technology, & Society; and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

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Speaker Bios

Paul Ohm, Associate Professor of Law, University of Colorado Law School

Paul Ohm is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Colorado Law School. He writes in the areas of information privacy, computer crime law, intellectual property, and criminal procedure. Through his scholarship and outreach, Professor Ohm is leading efforts to build new interdisciplinary bridges between law and computer science. Before becoming a law professor, Professor Ohm served as a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Department of Justice in the computer crimes unit. Before law school, he worked as a computer programmer and network systems administrator.

Cynthia Dwork, Principal Researcher, Microsoft

Cynthia Dwork has made fundamental contributions to cryptography, distributed computing, and complexity theory. Her current focus is placing privacy-preserving data analysis on a sound mathematical foundation. A Principal Researcher at Microsoft, Dwork is a recipient of the Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize, a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Chad Raphael, Associate Professor of Communication, Santa Clara University

Chad Raphael, Associate Professor of Communication at Santa Clara University, teaches and publishes in the areas of communication law and policy, political communication, and environmental communication. His current research focuses on citizen deliberation and democracy as well as the use of digital media for civic education and engagement of youth.

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