Data Mining and Privacy

Data Mining and Privacy

Esma Aïmeur (Université de Montréal, Canada) and Sébastien Gambs (Université de Montréal, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-010-3.ch061
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With the emergence of Internet, it is now possible to connect and access sources of information and databases throughout the world. At the same time, this raises many questions regarding the privacy and the security of the data, in particular how to mine useful information while preserving the privacy of sensible and confidential data. Privacy-preserving data mining is a relatively new but rapidly growing field that studies how data mining algorithms affect the privacy of data and tries to find and analyze new algorithms that preserve this privacy. At first glance, it may seem that data mining and privacy have orthogonal goals, the first one being concerned with the discovery of useful knowledge from data whereas the second is concerned with the protection of data’s privacy. Historically, the interactions between privacy and data mining have been questioned and studied since more than a decade ago, but the name of the domain itself was coined more recently by two seminal papers attacking the subject from two very different perspectives (Agrawal & Srikant, 2000; Lindell & Pinkas, 2000). The first paper (Agrawal & Srikant, 2000) takes the approach of randomizing the data through the injection of noise, and then recovers from it by applying a reconstruction algorithm before a learning task (the induction of a decision tree) is carried out on the reconstructed dataset. The second paper (Lindell & Pinkas, 2000) adopts a cryptographic view of the problem and rephrases it within the general framework of secure multiparty computation. The outline of this chapter is the following. First, the area of privacy-preserving data mining is illustrated through three scenarios, before a classification of privacy- preserving algorithms is described and the three main approaches currently used are detailed. Finally, the future trends and challenges that await the domain are discussed before concluding.
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The area of privacy-preserving data mining can still be considered in its infancy but there are already several workshops (usually held in collaboration with different data mining and machine learning conferences), two different surveys (Verykios et al., 2004; Výborný, 2006) and a short book (Vaidya, Clifton & Zhu, 2006) on the subject. The notion of privacy itself is difficult to formalize and quantify, and it can take different flavours depending on the context. The three following scenarios illustrate how privacy issues can appear in different data mining contexts.

  • Scenario 1: A famous Internet-access provider wants to release the log data of some of its customers (which include their personal queries over the last few months) to provide a public benchmark available to the web mining community. How can the company anonymize the database in such a way that it can guarantee to its clients that no important and sensible information can be mined about them?

  • Scenario 2: Different governmental agencies (for instance the Revenue Agency, the Immigration Office and the Ministry of Justice) want to compute and release some joint statistics on the entire population but they are constrained by the law not to communicate any individual information on citizens, even to other governmental agencies. How can the agencies compute statistics that are sufficiently accurate while at the same time, safeguarding the privacy of individual citizens?

  • Scenario 3: Consider two bioinformatics companies: Alice Corporation and Bob Trust. Each company possesses a huge database of bioinformatics data gathered from experiments performed in their respective labs. Both companies are willing to cooperate in order to achieve a learning task of mutual interest such as a clustering algorithm or the derivation of association rules, nonetheless they do not wish to exchange their whole databases because of obvious privacy concerns. How can they achieve this goal without disclosing any unnecessary information?

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