Feeds

Randomisation – IBM's answer to Web privacy

Have your cake and eat it

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

IBM Corp's new Privacy Institute has decided that randomization may be the key to protecting consumer privacy on the web while also providing e-businesses with informative metrics on their customers.

Thursday last week, the company said it has developed software that ensures consumers' sensitive data never leaves their computers in an accurate form, but can be reassembled at the back end in aggregate. IBM is looking for partners to develop the software.

"What we wanted to do is to protect users' privacy... but we also wanted businesses to get good information," said Rakesh Agrawal, who headed up the project. "The dilemma was how to balance those two objectives, how do you have your cake and eat it?"

The answer Agrawal, along with Ramakrishnan Srikant, came up with is an algorithm for reconstructing previously randomized data sets in such a way that the margin of error is only between 5% and 10% with a randomization of 100%, IBM claims.

In an example, a consumer registering for a web site truthfully enters their age as 30. Software in the page, perhaps a Java applet, is set to randomly add or subject years in a range of, say, five years, before submitting the data to the site, so submits the user's age as 26.

This happens with all the other users of the site, until the company has a data set of a few thousand individuals (that's all that's needed to get an accurate picture, Agrawal says) but with wildly skewed data that does not represent the true demographics of the users.

That's when IBM's special sauce kicks in. Before allowing the data to be input to a data mining application, IBM's software "corrects" the randomized data to provide a "close approximation of the true distribution". How, exactly, IBM was not ready to disclose, but it involves knowing what the range of randomization was in the first place.

"The intention now is to look for people that want to go into partnership with a beta," said IBM spokesperson Kendra Collins. The software has obvious commercial potential, but whether it will solve the problem of people entering false information is another question

© ComputerWire. All rights reserved.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Microsoft exits climate denier lobby group
ALEC will have to do without Redmond, it seems
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.