Thursday, 18 February 2010

De-anonymization illustrated; and guessing gender from web browser history

Wise Woman's Words recounts a quick but telling practical experiment she did with some students, which brought home to them how easy it is to re-identify people from limited data about them (age, sex, country of birth, bachelor's degree program and city they graduated in - the last 2 she said were unnecessary).

What a good way to illustrate the point.

She also mentioned a site I hadn't come across, which peeks at your web browser history to guess your gender. (You'll recall from my blog about de-anonymisation through group membership that it's possible for sites to check whether you've visited specific webpages, through your browser history.)

With the browser I use the most at home, Chrome, it was accurate - especially as I visit all sorts of sites linked to in my Google Reader feeds via Chrome.

But it got it wrong with Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera - too many computing and programming-related sites visited through those browsers, I suspect!

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