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Netflix Sued For Privacy Invasion 262

We've discussed the Netflix Prize numerous times as the contest ran, including the news two years ago that the anonymity of the dataset had been broken. Now reader azoblue sends in this excerpt from Wired: "An in-the-closet lesbian mother is suing Netflix for privacy invasion, alleging the movie rental company made it possible for her to be outed when it disclosed insufficiently anonymous information about nearly half-a-million customers as part of its $1 million contest to improve its recommendation system. ... The lead attorney on the new suit, Joseph Malley, recently reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with Facebook over its failed Beacon program, which drew fire in part for sharing users’ Blockbuster rentals with their friends. ... If a data set reveals a person's ZIP code, birthdate and gender, there's an 87 percent chance that the person can be uniquely identified." The suit turns on the question of whether Netflix should have known that their dataset's anonymity could be broken, two years before researchers demonstrated that.
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Netflix Sued For Privacy Invasion

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  • Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RichardJenkins ( 1362463 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @10:39AM (#30486982)
    How large an area is a zip code in the states? I think in the UK if a company publicly released sensitive data about a people with their birthday and postcode attached there'd be outrage. Muppets.
  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @10:41AM (#30487002) Journal

    I don't recall handing over my birthdate when I signed up for my account. I just went through all of the account screens and couldn't find it either. What part of their service expects you to tell them your birthday?

  • Filing as Jane Doe? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by whoda ( 569082 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @10:45AM (#30487036) Homepage

    How can a legal-aged adult file as Jane Doe just because of her secret of being 'in the closet'?

  • by Golddess ( 1361003 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:00AM (#30487244)
    So while before all that was available was a list of rented films which she seems to think indicates that whoever rents them can indicate that the watcher is gay (which I'm having a hard time making the leap from "if someone watches movie X, Y, and Z, that means they are gay), now the whole world knows she is gay.
  • by Carik ( 205890 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:05AM (#30487302)

    anyone filling a Jane/John Doe lawsuit has to expect their name would eventually become public information.

    Exactly. So she's just come out on her own... in order to sue someone for the potential that someone going through their data MIGHT be able to figure out that she's a lesbian.

    My point is still the same... she's given up on her privacy in order to sue someone for a potential (but not yet real) breach of privacy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:11PM (#30488300)

    I have a friend like this as well. She actually was just coerced into quitting because she told a female co-worker that she loved her and it caused a big problem. If she'd been more level-headed about it, I doubt she'd have disclosed that information before being 100% sure about the woman's reaction and even after, when they were trying to coerce her into quitting, she'd have been more level-headed about the problem if she hadn't kept saying things like 'They'll out me and the whole town will hate me.' It isn't even the town she lives in.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen