A statistical database (SDB) is a database that is used to return statistical information derived from the records to user queries for statistical data analysis.
Sometimes, by correlating enough statistics, confidential data (stored in an SDB) about an individual can be inferred. Examples of confidential information stored in an SDB might be salaries or data concerning the medical history of individuals.
An important problem is to provide security to SDBs against the disclosure of confidential information. An SDB is said to be secure if no protected data can be inferred from the available queries.
SIAM J. Discrete Math. 25, 1778 (2011)
Now THIS is an example of a network effect! Well, it isn’t truly an example of a Dijkstra style network, to be honest. It is mostly a simple example of information aggregation, at scale, leading to “de-obfuscation” of protected personal data.
It is the sort of thing that most of us should be concerned about, as much or more so than shadow groups pulling the strings toward mysterious nefarious ends. Lack of security of statistical databases is a near and present danger to individual privacy rights.
This is not an example of my beloved Eugene Derman’s recent (and wry) identification of the trend toward applying the concept of “SUPER SYMMETRY” to everything, particularly financial services-related and Big Bad Banker evil.
Nor is it a misuse of correlation either. Another of my unsung hero’s, the venerable Scotty Barber** of Reuters Graphics, has sometimes despaired of seeing an appropriate use of correlation that is not associated with the fallacy of
again, as it so often observed in economic and financial services news of late. I was of the same mind, to tell you the truth. Starting to despair of EVER seeing correlation coefficients used in a way that was free of pejorative connotations. My faith is restored!
* SIAM et al. = Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Journal of Discrete Mathematics
It has the most appealing blue and green header image of any journal with which I am familiar. Have a look! Give it a click (after reading what follows, if you would be so kind).
** Scotty Barber does data graphics, he is NOT a data visualization abuser. That is running rampant of late. And it IS possible to do data visualizations that are not abusive of the idea. I recommend Manuel Lima in that regard. He does fine modern data visualizations, without abusing the concept. Manuel Lima’s work was the first data visualization I had ever seen.
Alert: Manuel Lima is now one of us, here on tumblr of late, at Visual Complexity.
- Why does Reuters’ employee Felix Salmon have an assistant, but (also a Reuters’ employee) Scotty Barber does not? Maybe I am wrong, and Scotty Barber as well as his assistant(s) are just as modest and understated as he is.
- For that matter, why doesn’t Reuters give Eugene Derman, Ph.D. (whether an employee or not) an assistant too? And far more editorial support when he creates original images, which have aesthetic merit in my opinion, about pleasure and pain, to accompany his Reuters posts? Which would you rather see:
Visuals of pleasure and pain
Felix Salmon’s daily list of bookmarks?)
Note bene use of “modern”. I know about Edward Tufte. I met Edward Tufte before he published his first book. I sat through a luncheon at Swarthmore College in 1983 (or 1984?) where Tufte warned all five of us around the table (senior class math and statistics majors)
be careful, don’t dip my book in the gravy
while we ate, because
I had to take out a third mortgage on my house to get it published
And a wonderful book it turned out to be, I fully realize! So Tufte is not quite “modern” anymore. Well maybe he is modern. Perhaps the recent data visualization trend is “post-modern”? Yes, I know it is Web 2.0, but that is becoming dated as well.
Be all this as it may, this was a nice little article. It also appeared, I am afraid, in the now tabloid-of-the-physical-science press, PhysOrg. But I still read PhysOrg, and The Sun and The New York Post.
*** SIAM is the only academic journal in which my name ever appeared (very long ago) and is associated with the only prize for academic excellence I ever received. Thus my continued loyalty to SIAM, til death do us part.
Okay, enough original content. The arbiters of SEO have surely been appeased. No burnt offerings need be sent to Mountain View… although a nice roasted chicken with paprika couldn’t hurt. I’m contemplating cooking such later on today. Roasted chickens with paprika are not the reason for my Page Rank of 5, by the way. I don’t think…?
Time to CREATE POST!