Jun 222014
 
 June 22, 2014  Breaches

Vijay Pandurangan writes:

Recently, thanks to a Freedom of Information request, Chris Whong received and made public a complete dump of historical trip and fare logs from NYC taxis. It’s pretty incredible: there are over 20GB of uncompressed data comprising more than 173 million individual trips. Each trip record includes the pickup and dropoff location and time, anonymized hack licence number and medallion number (i.e. the taxi’s unique id number, 3F38, in my photo above), and other metadata.

These data are a veritable trove for people who love cities, transit, and data visualization. But there’s a big problem: the personally identifiable information (the driver’s licence number and taxi number) hasn’t been anonymized properly — what’s worse, it’s trivial to undo, and with other publicly available data, one can even figure out which person drove each trip. In the rest of this post, I’ll describe the structure of the data, what the person/people who released the data did wrong, how easy it is to deanonymize, and the lessons other agencies should learn from this. (And yes, I’ll also explain how rainbows fit in).

Read more on Medium.

h/t, Steve Werby

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