Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Getting Personal -- Letter Re "Uniquely Me!" Am. Sci.

To the Editors:

I read with great interest “Uniquely Me!” by Brian Hayes (March–April, Computing Science) on uniquely identifiable personal information. Hayes’s descriptions of the lengths to which companies go to capture these data and how incidental traits such as font choice can act as identifiers are fascinating. However, the article did not really differentiate between personal information that is fundamental and hard or impossible to change—such as one’s birthday, skin color, and college attended—and other more incidental information, such as browsing history and email address. Perhaps one can imagine limits on data collection related to the former but not the latter.

Mark Gerstein, New Haven, CT

Above is a published letter, with the following citation:
M Gerstein (2014). "Getting Personal", American Scientist (May-Jun., vol. 12, pg. 163)
Specifically, from Issue: May-June 2014, Volume 102, Number 3, Page: 163, DOI: 10.1511/2014.108.163

Published letter in response to:
Uniquely Me!
How much information does it take to single out one person among billions?
Brian Hayes
Specifically, from Issue: March-April 2014, Volume 102, Number 2, Page: 106, DOI: 10.1511/2014.107.106

Other notes:
What's a unique ID for a person and how companies are hacking into your
browser history to construct one.
[tags privacy][category popsci]
Interesting mention of PGP