The Deal with ‘De-anonymizing’

The Deal with ‘De-anonymizing’

By Drew Millikin | March 27, 2019

There was a fascinating segment on NPR’s Weekend Edition recently about ‘de-anonymization’, or, exposing individual’s identities out in public using Google. Professor Kate Klonick at St. John’s University Law School challenged her students to use Google to identify strangers based solely on what they see or overhear in public. According to Professor Klonick, her students were often able to do so in just minutes.

It’s a short segment, but definitely worth a listen:

This really got me thinking.

One of the feelings I often get from schools is the reluctance to give up tools like Flickr and SmugMug because they get more than 20,000 views or so on their photos. While the numbers may be impressive, the reality is that we don’t know quite who those viewers are.

I was an early adopter of Flickr, and for a while, my account was open and viewable by anyone. If I go back and look at those who liked my photos, 90 percent of them are clearly fake accounts! Of those 90 percent, at least half of them seem to be promoting inappropriate websites. Yikes. Having these fake accounts liking my honeymoon photos leaves me with a very uncomfortable feeling.

As a school, if you’re uploading photos of your students into tools like Flickr and Smugmug, and if the majority your likes and favorites, like mine, are from questionable sources, that surely must leave you feeling at least a little uncomfortable too.

As Professor Klonick explains, “I’ve had my students talking to me over break and sending me their stories about how it took them two minutes or three minutes or four minutes to have full information about the person sitting in front of them on an airplane or next to them on the subway based really on things as little as their first name and the college that was on their shirt or something like the details for picking them up from the airport…”

Simply replace “college” with “school” in the above statement it’s clearly time for schools to start  taking a serious look at what they make public and where.


About Drew Millikin: Having spent 15 years working in admissions and advancement in both higher education and independent schools, Drew spent countless hours searching for photos on various servers and archives. Now, he’s joining the Vidigami Pros as Director of Sales, helping schools successfully organize and share their content in a private and secure manner, for marketing and communications, advancement efforts, and more.

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By |2019-03-27T11:05:07+00:00March 27th, 2019|Privacy and Security, What We Think|0 Comments

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