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Regulating Privacy after the Failure of Anonymisation

Date & Time:
15:00:00 - 16:30:00,
Thursday 31 March, 2011


In his 2010 article Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization, Professor Paul Ohm surveyed how computer scientists have undermined our faith in the privacy-protecting power of anonymisation, the name for techniques for protecting the privacy of individuals in large databases by deleting information like names and home addresses. He continued to argue that Our faltering faith in anonymisation should also undermine our confidence in the way regulation protects privacy, because nearly every information privacy law ever written relies on the protective power of anonymisation.

In this talk, Professor Ohm will describe what privacy regulation should look like after the failure of anonymisation. Unfortunately, privacy protection will become a messier challenge than it has been in the past, since new laws and regulations will necessarily be less precise, complete, and sweeping than the ones that they will replace. Despite these challenges, we can, and indeed must, find ways to use law to protect privacy, to push back against social and market forces cutting against privacy. Professor Ohm will identify some principles, tools, and specific suggestions for protecting privacy with regulation relying less on anonymisation, and he will apply these to several, current and ongoing privacy debates.

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University of Colorado Law School