Entries Tagged "anonymity"

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Circumventing Communications Blackouts

Rangzen looks like a really interesting ad hoc mesh networking system to circumvent government-imposed communications blackouts. I am particularly interested in how it uses reputation to determine who can be trusted, while maintaining some level of anonymity.

Academic paper:

Abstract: A challenging problem in dissent networking is that of circumventing large-scale communication blackouts imposed by oppressive governments. Although prior work has not focused on the need for user anonymity, we contend that it is essential. Without anonymity, governments can use communication networks to track and persecute users. A key challenge for decentralized networks is that of resource allocation and control. Network resources must be shared in a manner that deprioritizes unwanted traffic and abusive users. This task is typically addressed through reputation systems that conflict with anonymity. Our work addresses this paradox: We prioritize resources in a privacy-preserving manner to create an attack-resilient, anonymity-preserving, mobile ad-hoc network. Our prioritization mechanism exploits the properties of a social trust graph to promote messages relayed via trusted nodes. We present Rangzen, a microblogging solution that uses smartphones to opportunistically relay messages among citizens in a delay-tolerant network (DTN) that is independent of government or corporate-controlled infrastructure.

This is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking about in this essay.

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 7:43 AMView Comments

Reidentifying Anonymous Data

Latanya Sweeney has demonstrated how easy it can be to identify people from their birth date, gender, and zip code. The anonymous data she reidentified happened to be DNA data, but that’s not relevant to her methods or results.

Of the 1,130 volunteers Sweeney and her team reviewed, about 579 provided zip code, date of birth and gender, the three key pieces of information she needs to identify anonymous people combined with information from voter rolls or other public records. Of these, Sweeney succeeded in naming 241, or 42% of the total. The Personal Genome Project confirmed that 97% of the names matched those in its database if nicknames and first name variations were included.

Her results are described here.

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 1:54 PMView Comments

Pseudonymity

Long essay on the value of pseudonymity. From the conclusions:

Here lies the huge irony in this discussion. Persistent pseudonyms aren’t ways to hide who you are. They provide a way to be who you are. You can finally talk about what you really believe; your real politics, your real problems, your real sexuality, your real family, your real self. Much of the support for “real names” comes from people who don’t want to hear about controversy, but controversy is only a small part of the need for pseudonyms. For most of us, it’s simply the desire to be able to talk openly about the things that matter to every one of us who uses the Internet. The desire to be judged — not by our birth, not by our sex, and not by who we work for — but by what we say.

[…]

I leave you with this question. What if I had posted this under my pseudonym? Why should that have made a difference? I would have written the same words, but ironically, I could have added some more personal and perhaps persuasive arguments which I dare not make under this account. Because I was forced to post this under my real name, I had to weaken my arguments; I had to share less of myself. Have you ever met “Kee Hinckley”? Have you met me under my other name? Does it matter? There is nothing real on the Internet; all you know about me is my words. You can look me up on Google, and still all you will know is my words. One real person wrote this post. It could have been submitted under either name. But one of them is not allowed to. Does that really make sense?

Behind every pseudonym is a real person. Deny the pseudonym and you deny the person.

This is, of a course, a response to the Google+ names policy.

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 6:01 AMView Comments

Realistic Masks

They’re causing problems:

A white bank robber in Ohio recently used a “hyper-realistic” mask manufactured by a small Van Nuys company to disguise himself as a black man, prompting police there to mistakenly arrest an African American man for the crimes.

In October, a 20-year-old Chinese man who wanted asylum in Canada used one of the same company’s masks to transform himself into an elderly white man and slip past airport security in Hong Kong.

Authorities are even starting to think that the so-called Geezer Bandit, a Southern California bank robber believed for months to be an old man, might actually be a younger guy wearing one of the disguises made by SPFXMasks.

News coverage of the incidents has pumped up demand for the masks, which run from $600 to $1,200, according to company owner Rusty Slusser. But he says he’s not happy about it.

[…]

Slusser opened SPFXMasks in 2003. His six-person crew uses silicone that looks and feels like flesh, down to the pores. Each strand of hair ­ and it’s human hair ­ is sewn on individually. Artists methodically paint the masks to create realistic skin tones.

“I wanted to make something that looks so real that when you go out for Halloween no one can tell,” Slusser said. “It’s like ‘Mission: Impossible’ ­ you pull it over your head one time and that’s it. It’s like a 10-hour makeup job in 10 seconds.”

He experimented until he found the right recipe for silicone that would seem like skin. A key discovery was that if the inside of the mask is smooth ­ even if the outside is bumpy with pores, a nose and other features ­ it will stretch over most faces and move with facial muscles.

Posted on December 14, 2010 at 1:12 PMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.