Log in

No account? Create an account
De-anonymization, network neutrality - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

De-anonymization, network neutrality [Nov. 13th, 2008|03:53 am]
Arvind Narayanan
[Tags|, , , , , , ]

A couple of things that have nothing to do with each other:

Lending Club is a peer-to-peer loans company that has been publishing "anonymized" financial data about their customer's loans. For each customer (there are nearly 5,000 in the dataset), their income, credit rating, and a variety of other sensitive data are posted. There's also the text from the loan application for each customer; here's a representative example:
My husband’s lawyer has told us that we need $5000 up front to pay for his child custody case. We are going to file for primary custody. Right now he has no visitation rights according to their divorce agreement. His ex-wife has been evicted twice in the four months and is living with 2 of their 3 daughters in a two bedroom apartment with her boyfriend. She has no job or car and the only money they have is what we give them in child support and she blows all of it on junk. We have a 2000+ square foot house, both have stable jobs, and our own cars. Both girls(12 and 15 years old) are allowed to go and do whatever they please even though they are failing classes at school. We are clearly the better situation for them to be raised in but we simply do not have that much money all at once. We would be able to pay around $200 per month for repayment.
Users thought they were providing this information anonymously. I've published an analysis of how to de-anonymize the data in a variety of different ways.

The other thing is Network Neutrality, which I'm opposed to, as you can probably guess. Or rather, I'm opposed to Net Neutrality regulation, which I don't think will make the Internet any more neutral and has a huge potential to end in disaster. Most people who support regulation know very little about the issue beyond "OMG evil companies are going to take over the Internets!!" You might want to take a look at this detailed Cato Institute study and introductory blog post by Tim Lee arguing that there's nothing wrong with the Internet and that regulation is likely to lead to a huge mess. Particularly interesting to me is his analysis of how the Interstate Commerce Commission had the opposite of the intended effect on the railroads a hundred years ago.

Perhaps the most sensible thing anyone has ever said on Net Neutrality comes from an essay by Ed Felten:
The present situation, with the network neutrality issue on the table in Washington but no rules yet adopted, is in many ways ideal. ISPs, knowing that discriminating now would make regulation seem more necessary, are on their best behavior; and with no rules yet adopted we don’t have to face the difficult issues of line-drawing and enforcement. Enacting strong regulation now would risk side-effects, and passing toothless regulation now would remove the threat of regulation. If it is possible to maintain the threat of regulation while leaving the issue unresolved, time will teach us more about what regulation, if any, is needed.
Bias disclosure: both Tim Lee and Ed Felten are friends of mine. The Cato institute is a libertarian think-tank.