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Friday, May 15, 2009

Unmasking Social-Network Users

Social networks typically promise to remove “personally identifying information” before sharing this data, to protect users’ privacy. But researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found that, combined with readily available data from other online sources, this anonymized data can still reveal sensitive information about users.

In tests involving the photo-sharing site Flickr and the microblogging service Twitter, the Texas researchers were able to identify a third of the users with accounts on both sites simply by searching for recognizable patterns in anonymized network data. Both Twitter and Flickr display user information publicly, so the researchers anonymized much of the data in order to test their algorithms.

Full-text article by Erica Naone is available via Technology Review, 5.6.09.

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