Privacy-Enhanced Data Mining
There are a variety of encryption technologies that allow you to analyze data without knowing details of the data:
Largely by employing the head-spinning principles of cryptography, the researchers say they can ensure that law enforcement, intelligence agencies and private companies can sift through huge databases without seeing names and identifying details in the records.
For example, manifests of airplane passengers could be compared with terrorist watch lists — without airline staff or government agents seeing the actual names on the other side’s list. Only if a match were made would a computer alert each side to uncloak the record and probe further.
“If it’s possible to anonymize data and produce … the same results as clear text, why not?” John Bliss, a privacy lawyer in IBM’s “entity analytics” unit, told a recent workshop on the subject at Harvard University.
This is nothing new. I’ve seen papers on this sort of stuff since the late 1980s. The problem is that no one in law enforcement has any incentive to use them. Privacy is rarely a technological problem; it’s far more often a social or economic problem.