When you sneeze, does Google tell the Feds?

Anonymization’ – a word with no meaning

When unveiling its search-data-driven Flu Trends modeler earlier this week, Google insisted it could never be used to identify the web habits of individual people. Flu Trends, the company said, uses nothing but “anonymized” data.

Of course, no one knows what that means.

Following the release of the new disease tracker, two concerned watchdogs – the tech-minded Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the medical-minded Patient Privacy Rights – tossed a letter at Google CEO Eric Schmidt, asking for an explanation. “Would you agree to publish the technique that Google has adopted to protect the privacy of search queries for Google Flu Trends?” the letter asked. “As you know, there is considerable debate as to what constitutes ‘anonymized’ data.”

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