posted Oct 10, 2000

It Doesn’t Take Much To Make You Stand Out
Privacy from Companies
10/10/2000; 10:33:33 AM

'“EIGHTY-SEVEN PERCENT of the population of the U.S. can be uniquely identified [only] by their date of birth, gender and five-digit ZIP code,” says Latanya Sweeney, assistant professor of computer science and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Web sites often ask for such seemingly innocuous information and people provide it, thinking that they will remain unknown.'

Curmudgeon, are you watching this site? Using the keys of gender (2), date of birth (with in the last hundred years) (36,525), and zip codes (100,000), I get a total number of unique keys of 7,305,000,000, which is well in excess of the population of the United States. And I suppose this makes sense; zip codes are only allowed to be so large and even city hospitals might not see more then 10 or 20 births, which could be distributed around several zip codes.

If this is true, chalk it up to another Unintuitive Result Of Statistics.

 

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