We're living in an age of big data, a time when most of our movements and actions are collected and stored in real time. Large-scale mobile phone, credit card, or browsing datasets dramatically increase our capacity to measure, understand, and potentially affect the behavior of individuals and collectives. The use of this data, however, raise legitimate privacy concerns. In this talk, I will first show how the mere absence of obvious identifiers such as name or phone number is often not enough to prevent re-identification. I will then discuss how, as the use of this data progress, it will become increasingly important to consider whether sensitive information can be inferred from apparently innocuous data. Finally, I will discuss the impact of metadata on society and some of solutions we have been developing to allow metadata to be used in a privacy-conscientious way.
Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye is a lecturer (eq. Assistant Professor) at Imperial College London, a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab, and a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard IQSS. He recently received his Ph.D. in computational privacy from MIT. His research aims at understanding how the unicity of human behavior impacts the privacy of individuals--through re-identification or inference--in large-scale metadata datasets such as mobile phone, credit cards, or browsing data. Yves-Alexandre was recently named an Innovator under 35 for Belgium (TR35). His research has been published in Science and Nature SRep. and covered by the BBC, CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Le Monde, Die Spiegel, Die Zeit, El Pais as well as in his TEDx talks. His work on the shortcomings of anonymization has appeared in reports of the World Economic Forum, United Nations, OECD, FTC, and the European Commission. Before coming to MIT, he was a researcher at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. Yves-Alexandre worked for the Boston Consulting Group and acted as an expert for both the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations. He is a member of the OECD Advisory Group on Health Data Governance. Over a period of 6 years, he obtained an M.Sc. from Louvain in Applied Mathematics, a M.Sc. (Centralien) from Ecole Centrale Paris, a M.Sc. from KULeuven in Mathematical Engineering as well as his B.Sc. in engineering at Louvain.