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Location Confidentiality and Official Surveys

13 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2016  

Micah Altman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries; The Brookings Institution

Cavan Capps

Government of the United States of America - Bureau of the Census

Ronald C Prevost

Government of the United States of America - Bureau of the Census

Date Written: March 31, 2016

Abstract

In general, the growth of big data sources have changed the threat landscape of privacy and statistics in at least three major ways. First, when surveys were initially founded as the principal source of statistical information, whether one participated in a survey was largely unknown. Now, as government record systems and corporate big data sources are increasingly used that include all or a large portion of a given universe, that privacy protection is eroded. Second, in the past, little outside information was generally available to match with published summaries. Now the ubiquity of auxiliary information enables many more inferences from summary data. Third, in the past, typical privacy attacks relied on linking outside data through well-known public characteristics -- PII or BII. Now, datasets can be linked through behavioral fingerprints.

The current state of the practice in privacy lags well behind the state of the art in this area. Most commercial organizations, and most NSOs in other countries continue to rely (at most) on traditional aggregation and suppression methods to protect privacy – with no formal analysis of privacy loss or of the utility of the information gathered. The U.S. Census Bureau, because of its size, institutional capacity, and strong reputation for privacy protection could establish leadership in modernizing privacy practices.

Keywords: Privacy, Big Data, Statistical Organizations

JEL Classification: D82

Suggested Citation

Altman, Micah and Capps, Cavan and Prevost, Ronald C, Location Confidentiality and Official Surveys (March 31, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2757737 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2757737

Micah Altman (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

HOME PAGE: http://informatics.mit.edu

The Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

HOME PAGE: http://informatics.mit.edu

Cavan Capps

Government of the United States of America - Bureau of the Census ( email )

4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
United States

Ronald C Prevost

Government of the United States of America - Bureau of the Census ( email )

4600 Silver Hill Road
Washington, DC 20233
United States

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