Lying is the best way to protect your privacy

October 16 2014

So today a data firm I was scheduled to interview  tried to surprise with a personal profile pulled from their internal dataset, which is a combination of publically available information and paid-for data from credit agencies and the like. Happily the plan to shock me backfired. Aside from my name and phone number – which were used to trigger the search – only my passport number was correct. Although incorrectly displayed as a South African ID number.

To be fair, I’ve not lived in South Africa long enough to be on all the databases yet, and many of the fields were close enough to make me uncomfortable – age within a year, address in the right area, salary not a million rand off what I actually earn.

Also, I am unusual in that I habitually lie about things like my address, passport number, date of birth and cell number on non-legal forms which are ridiculously intrusive, and I don’t carry cards of any kind not issued by my bank, so no in-store rewards for me. I also opt out of things like Discovery’s keep fit spyware.

Sadly I can’t be too smug. I read this post about de-deanonymising data from New York taxis after I got home and got all depressed again at the apparent ease with which commuters’ identities were reverse engineered. I’m a passionate advocate of open data, but sometimes it is easy to forget the dangers…

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