A Principled Approach to Defining Anonymization As Applied to EU Data Protection Law

27 Pages Posted: 11 May 2022 Last revised: 13 May 2022

See all articles by Micah Altman

Micah Altman

Center for Research in Equitable and Open Scholarship, MIT

Aloni Cohen

University of Chicago - Department of Computer Science

Francesca Falzon

Brown University

Evangelia Anna Markatou

Brown University

Kobbi Nissim

Georgetown University - Department of Computer Science

Michel Jose Reymond

Sidhant Saraogi

Georgetown University

Alexandra Wood

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: May 9, 2022

Abstract

The concept of anonymization plays a central role in data protection law, defining a broad category of information that falls outside the scope of regulation, and thereby enabling companies, government agencies, and researchers to carry out a wide range of data processing activities. Yet, despite the significance of the concept, it is undertheorized and poorly articulated in regulatory guidance.

This article puts forth principles for the regulation of anonymization, and for data protection regulation more broadly. It also provides model language as a starting point for explicitly incorporating these principles into data protection guidance. These principles are grounded in the past 20+ years of research in data privacy. These principles are not intended as absolutes, but better anonymization techniques and regulations will generally satisfy more of these principles - or are the principles intended to be exhaustive.

Keywords: Information Privacy, Data Protection, EDPL, Anonymization, Deidentification

JEL Classification: C00, K10, K19, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Altman, Micah and Cohen, Aloni and Falzon, Francesca and Markatou, Evangelia Anna (Lilika) and Nissim, Kobbi and Reymond, Michel Jose and Saraogi, Sidhant and Wood, Alexandra, A Principled Approach to Defining Anonymization As Applied to EU Data Protection Law (May 9, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4104748

Micah Altman (Contact Author)

Center for Research in Equitable and Open Scholarship, MIT ( email )

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

HOME PAGE: http://micahaltman.com

Aloni Cohen

University of Chicago - Department of Computer Science ( email )

Chicago, IL
United States

Francesca Falzon

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Evangelia Anna (Lilika) Markatou

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://markatou.github.io/

Kobbi Nissim

Georgetown University - Department of Computer Science ( email )

37th & O St., NW
St. Mary's Hall 329A
Washington, DC 20057
United States

Sidhant Saraogi

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sarsid.github.io/

Alexandra Wood

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

No contact information is available for Michel Jose Reymond

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