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Special Issue Illustrates Importance of Data Privacy

1 December 2020 No Comment
Amanda Peterson-Plunkett, CHANCE Executive Editor
    Photo of Amanda Peterson-Plunkett, Chance Executive Editor

    Amanda Peterson-Plunkett

    In 2006, Netflix hosted a data competition aimed at improving their movie recommendation system. The winners were awarded $1 million in 2009 for a model that offered more than 10 percent improvement over the company’s own recommendation model. Netflix planned to host a follow-up competition but reversed the decision in 2010 after a class-action lawsuit (Doe v. Netflix) was filed against them alleging privacy law violations concerning the data set publicized for the original competition.

    Two years earlier in 2008, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, Arvind Narayanan and Vitaly Shmatikov, showed that it was possible to identify specific customers in the competition data set (suggesting even political and religious affiliations could be determined), even though Netflix had performed a form of cursory anonymization. 

    The Netflix example illustrates the importance of preserving confidentiality when sharing data sets. In the most recent issue of CHANCE, a special issue, authors focus on statistical data privacy and confidentiality. The issue also features three guest editors:

    • Saki Kinney, senior research statistician at RTI International
    • Fang Liu, professor and director of graduate studies in applied and computational mathematics and statistics at the University of Notre Dame, senior editorial board member for BMC Medical Research Methodology, and co-editor of CHANCE’s O Privacy, Where Art Thou? column
    • Aleksandra Slavkovic, professor of statistics with appointments in the departments of statistics and public health sciences and the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences at Penn State University, associate editor of the Annals of Applied Statistics and Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality, and co-editor of CHANCE’s O Privacy, Where Art Thou? column.

    In columns, we turn to teaching and sports. In the Teaching Statistics in the Health Sciences column, Erin Blankenship and Ella Burnham share their online teaching experiences, a topic many teachers can relate to during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Taking a Chance in the Classroom, Evangeline Reynolds explains how to create engaging assignments using flipbooks, demonstrating the method using the R flipbookr package. Finally, in Beyond the Box Score, Christopher Bilder discusses the flagstick dilemma in golf: whether to leave the flag in or out of the hole.

    As an ASA member, you can view the online version of CHANCE for free by logging into your ASA account and looking under My Publications.

    Would you like to write an article for CHANCE? Submission instructions and writing tips can be found on the CHANCE website.

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