How you interact with a crowd may help you stick out from it, at least to artificial intelligence.
When fed information about a target individual’s mobile phone interactions, as well as their contacts’ interactions, AI can correctly pick the target out of more than 40,000 anonymous mobile phone service subscribers more than half the time, researchers report January 25 in Nature Communications. The findings suggest humans socialize in ways that could be used to pick them out of datasets that are supposedly anonymized.
It’s no surprise that people tend to remain within established social circles and that these regular interactions form a stable pattern over time, says Jaideep Srivastava, a computer scientist from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who was not involved in the study. “But the fact that you can use that pattern to identify the individual, that part is surprising.”
According to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act, companies that collect information about people’s daily interactions can share or sell this data without users’ consent. The catch is that the data must be anonymized. Some organizations might assume that they can meet this standard by giving users pseudonyms, says Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, a computational privacy researcher at Imperial College London. “Our results are showing that this is not true.”
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