Tallinn University of Technology

"The Important Research of LaTanya Sweeney: Pigeons in Pigeonholes and Application to Estonia “Tuvid tuvide aukudes”" 
Speaker: Prof Wayne Patterson

Over 20 years ago, the surprising research by LaTanya Sweeney demonstrated that publicly available database information exposed the overwhelming percentage of United States residents to information easily available in order to facilitate the capture of such personal information, through techniques we now refer to as “dumpster diving.” In particular, her research demonstrated that approximately 87% of the United States population can be identified uniquely using only the United States’ five digit postal code, date of birth (including year), and gender. Although this result has held up over time, given the demographic parameters used in developing this estimate, Sweeney’s technique made no attempt to develop similar estimates for other countries. In this paper, we use Sweeney’s technique in order to provide estimates of the ability of similar demographics to provide the same type of data in a number of other countries, with a particular detailed focus on Estonia.

In Sweeney’s original paper, she did not go beyond her original demographics to see if corresponding conclusions could be developed not only for other nations, but also for secondary or tertiary levels of government, such as states of the United States. In this talk, we will consider similar issues in the secondary level of “counties” (“maakond”) in Estonia. An important conclusion will be that the probability of cyberattack to allow the attacker to discover individuals' data is considerably higher in Harju, Tartu, and Ida-Viru, by a factor of at most 300% compared to Estonia as a whole.

The webinar is organised by Tallinn University of Technology in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Estonia in the framework of the "Roadmap for Inclusive Cybersecurity" project.

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