Anonymization Doesn\’t Work; Phone-Tracked LGBTQ Priest Resigns

Anonymization or data minimization is like Santa Claus. You want to believe in it and convince others to believe in it until reality hits and everyone hates you for lying to them. I\’ve always wondered whether journalists and media outlets can track users and collect sensitive data on their readers. The answer appears to be an alarming Yes.

NYT reports on a really concerning incident of a catholic priest who had to resign after his sexual orientation was exposed by snoopy journalists. How do media outlets know that a reader is using the Grindr app? Data brokers (see below). This is extremely disheartening.

I don\’t even know where to begin. This means that you need to use encryption just to read the newspaper. This is crazy.

Are we going to return to newspapers in print?

\”Apps and data brokers claim they are only sharing so-called “anonymized” data. But that’s simply not possible. Data brokers sell rich profiles with more than enough information to link sensitive data to real people, even if the brokers don’t include a legal name. In particular, there’s no such thing as “anonymous” location data. Data points like one’s home or workplace are identifiers themselves, and a malicious observer can connect movements to these and other destinations. In this case, that includes gay bars and private residents.

\”Another piece of the puzzle is the ad ID, another so-called “anonymous\” label that identifies a device. Apps share ad IDs with third parties, and an entire industry of “identity resolution” companies can readily link ad IDs to real people at scale.\”