Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Fool's Gold: an Illustrated Critique of Differential Privacy

16 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, 2014 (Forthcoming)

Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 13-47

55 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2013  

Jane R. Bambauer

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Krish Muralidhar

University of Oklahoma

Rathindra Sarathy

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater

Date Written: September 15, 2013

Abstract

Differential privacy has taken the privacy community by storm. Computer scientists developed this technique to allow researchers to submit queries to databases without being able to glean sensitive information about the individuals described in the data. Legal scholars champion differential privacy as a practical solution to the competing interests in research and confidentiality, and policymakers are poised to adopt it as the gold standard for data privacy. It would be a disastrous mistake.

This Article provides an illustrated guide to the virtues and pitfalls of differential privacy. While the technique is suitable for a narrow set of research uses, the great majority of analyses would produce results that are beyond absurd: average income in the negative millions, or correlations well above 1, for example.

The legal community has been misled into thinking that differential privacy can offer the benefits of data research without sacrificing privacy. In fact, differential privacy will usually produce either very wrong research results or very useless privacy protections. Policymakers and data stewards will have to rely on a mix of approaches: perhaps differential privacy where it is well-suited to the task, and other disclosure prevention techniques in the great majority of situations where it isn’t.

Keywords: differential privacy, privacy, confidentiality, data privacy, data research, disclosure

Suggested Citation

Bambauer, Jane R. and Muralidhar, Krish and Sarathy, Rathindra, Fool's Gold: an Illustrated Critique of Differential Privacy (September 15, 2013). 16 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, 2014 (Forthcoming); Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 13-47. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2326746

Jane R. Yakowitz Bambauer (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

Krish Muralidhar

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

Rathindra Sarathy

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater ( email )

Stillwater, OK 74078-0555
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
1,017
Rank
16,999
Abstract Views
4,781