Category Archives: Law
Oh, Canada / Privacy?
I was reading this article on Slate about a billionaire and his “de-facto spouse”. I came across this paragraph (emphasis added):
In 2002, “Eric” and “Lola” put an end to their decade-long de facto union. (These are pseudonyms used by the media, because Canadian law forbids the publication of the couple’s real names to protect the privacy of their children.) Lola, a Latin American woman, met Eric, a world-famous billionaire, when she was only 17 and he was 32. Although she wanted to get married throughout their relationship, Eric, who claims like many Quebecois that he “doesn’t believe in marriage,” refused.
Now, speaking as someone who wrote a dissertation about statistical disclosure control, this is not good. Many authors often give examples of why you can’t release certain characteristics about an individual if you want to maintain privacy. Common examples include releasing occupation information for someone who has a very rare occupation (e.g. Senator, Prime Minister) or releasing salary information on someone who has a very large salary. Knowing this type of in formation severely limits to potential pool of people who could possibly be the target. Further, the more details you have about an individual the easier it is to identify that person (e.g. age, location, gender, birth date).
Here is the information from just that one paragraph on Slate (I should be clear here, I am not criticizing slate at all; If Canada really values privacy, they need to think a little bit harder than this though):
- “Eric” is a billionaire (a famous one, even).
- “Eric” was 32 in 1992. (This means he was born in 1959 or 1960 and is about 52 now.)
- “Eric” is from Quebec.
- “Eric” is a man.
- “Lola” is Latin American.
- “Lola” was 17 in 1992.
- “Lola” dated “Eric” for ten years.
- “Lola” is a woman.
I’m not going to do this right now, but
I bet I could you can figure out who “Eric” is in about 15 4 minutes (according to commenter Brandon) with nothing more than Google. (Here is a good place to start.)
Canada, here are some articles you might be interested in:
- Anonymized” data really isn’t—and here’s why not
- Exposed: The erosion of privacy in the Internet era
- What Information is “Personally Identifiable”?