Data anonymization cannot ensure data privacy

It has been revealed that data anonymization is no silver bullet when it comes to protecting data privacy, as GDPR mandates the former

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Data anonymization

Have you ever spared a thought to what happens to all your personally identifiable information that online businesses capture - for instance on social media platforms, or signing up for an online service, or making an online purchase using a credit card? Despite reading the disclaimer that your anonymous data may be shared with third party, you trust these digital businesses with your personal data in the hope that they will exercise appropriate caution to protect you and your identity from cyber criminals.


Cyber criminals on the other hand are trying newer tricks along with sophisticated tools to steal credentials, which can then be used for monetary exploits. Rising incidents of data breach are providing abundant customer data to the cyber criminals, which in turn has resulted in increased cyber attacks and online fraud.

GDPR mandates data anonymization

To arrest the abuse of identity credentials at the hands of cyber criminals, regulations like the GDPR (general data protection regulation) were introduced. The GDPR mandates businesses—primarily dealing with data—to ensure security of personal details of the customers. Businesses are obliged to anonymize customer data with appropriate de-identification techniques so it cannot be tied back to uniquely re-identify a user.


Data anonymization is no silver bullet

A new study published in the 'Nature', however, has revealed that it is far more difficult to truly anonymize user data than it appears to be.

The report has some startling revelations. It states that using just 15 demographic attributes, the researchers could correctly re-identify a whopping 99.98% of Americans from any given data set! The report further states that even the most heavily sampled anonymized data sets cannot meet the anonymization standards as prescribed by the GDPR. The researchers have also revealed an online tool to drive home the point that it is ridiculously easy to identify yourself from the 'anonymous data shared with third parties'.


Lessons learned

The standout lesson from this report is that users must be more vigilant while sharing personal details online. So, the next time, be a bit more stingy while sharing your personal information on various online channels.

The article has been written by Neetu Katyal, Content and Marketing Consultant

She can be reached on LinkedIn.