Science Magazine Releases Special Issue on Digital Privacy

Yesterday, January 29th, Science Magazine released a new Special Issue entitled The End of Privacy. In line with its theme, the edition will be made available online at no cost for the first week following publication. Take this chance to look through!

For scientists, the vast amounts of data that people shed every day offer great new opportunities but new dilemmas as well. New computational techniques can identify people or trace their behavior by combining just a few snippets of data. There are ways to protect the private information hidden in big data files, but they limit what scientists can learn; a balance must be struck.

Boldly declaring “Privacy as we have known is ending and we’re only beginning to fathom the consequences,” the Special Issue deals with a host of topics related to different facets of data deposition, use, and confidentiality. Included in the publication are formal reports and new articles.

One such report by Susan Landau of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, titled Control use of Data to Protect Privacy, emphasizes the need for new approaches to ensure data security. Instead of stressing consent for data collection, Landau states “efforts to protect privacy by controlling use of data are gaining [rightfully so] more attention.”

A other piece by Danny Goroff of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (BITSS Sponsor), Balancing Privacy versus Accuracy in Research Protocols, deals with the difficulty of anonymizing sensitive data for publication and discusses techniques to surmounting those obstacles. Goroff writes:

Designing protocols for research using personal data entails trade-offs between accuracy and privacy. Any suggestion that would make empirical work less precise, open, representative, or replicable seems contrary to the needs and values of science. A careful reexamination has begun of what “accuracy” or “privacy” should mean and how research plans can balance these objectives.

The Special Issue also features a Digital Privacy Quiz.

In an age of big data, ever more capable personal devices, and ubiquitous Internet connections, it’s hard to hide from a determined sleuth. How well do you understand your vulnerabilities?

Take the quiz to find our your digital privacy IQ.

A list of all the articles is available here.