Monday, August 21, 2006
Search, Tech: Perhaps these guys who created TrackMeNot were at SIG IR and heard the presentation by Daniel Frankowski I mentioned HERE. Frankowski showed that its not that hard to link public anonymized users with a private users-not-anonymized data set. Basically, things boil down to our novel searches are far more revealing than our non-novel (ordinary) searches; in other words, the sheep are difficult to identify, but the "independent types" are not. In addition, Frankowski explored whether burying novel actions inside of ordinary actions would decrease the possibility of identification. Apparently it does, but not as much as one would hope, and nonetheless, identification is still very possible. TrackMeNot tries anyway, by periodically issuing random queries to the big search engines from a Firefox browser. Cute idea, helps a bit, but not really going to solve this problem for society at large. As security experts like to say: obfuscation is not a security strategy.