Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Netflix Sued For Privacy Invasion

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the peekaboo-i-see-you dept.

Privacy 262

We've discussed the Netflix Prize numerous times as the contest ran, including the news two years ago that the anonymity of the dataset had been broken. Now reader azoblue sends in this excerpt from Wired: "An in-the-closet lesbian mother is suing Netflix for privacy invasion, alleging the movie rental company made it possible for her to be outed when it disclosed insufficiently anonymous information about nearly half-a-million customers as part of its $1 million contest to improve its recommendation system. ... The lead attorney on the new suit, Joseph Malley, recently reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with Facebook over its failed Beacon program, which drew fire in part for sharing users’ Blockbuster rentals with their friends. ... If a data set reveals a person's ZIP code, birthdate and gender, there's an 87 percent chance that the person can be uniquely identified." The suit turns on the question of whether Netflix should have known that their dataset's anonymity could be broken, two years before researchers demonstrated that.

cancel ×

262 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

eat my shorts slashdot !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30486958)

Eat my shorts slashdot !!

Re:eat my shorts slashdot !! (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487452)

99.999% chance of AC being Bart Simpson.

Yes (2, Interesting)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30486982)

How large an area is a zip code in the states? I think in the UK if a company publicly released sensitive data about a people with their birthday and postcode attached there'd be outrage. Muppets.

Re:Yes (1)

akcpe (1438869) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487018)

It varies in size. I've lived in zip codes where population has ranged from maybe 20,000 people to one as large as 300,000 people.

Re:Yes (2, Informative)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487088)

300000 people in a single ZIP code? In Canada, a unique Postal Code covers maybe 50-80 houses along a street or two, or at most one large condo building with 2000 residents or so.

Within a pool of 2000 (or fewer) people, I can see how gender and DOB could provide unique identification with 87% accuracy. Within a pool of 300000? Not so much.

Re:Yes (4, Informative)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487200)

There is a difference between US zip code system and Canadian one.

In the US, there is zip5 + zip4 (total 9 digits). If you use both, you are talking about 2-3 houses on a street. This is equivalent to Canadian 3+3 system. But a five digit US zip code may mean anything from one business building to very large number depending on the density.

Re:Yes (2, Informative)

akcpe (1438869) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487226)

There's really two different ways of listing the code actually, one of which would probably get you down to that level. Zip code is 5 digits + 4 additional digits. When mailing something only the first 5 are required. the additional 4 would likely identify you down to the street level. 12345-XXXX would get you there, but there may be a hundred thousand people in all of 12345. Its unclear to me which Netflix released. Generally the mail I receive with an automatically generated address label (such as from Netflix) includes the -XXXX

Re:Yes (3, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487360)

Generally the mail I receive with an automatically generated address label (such as from Netflix) includes the -XXXX

Just a note, but the reasoning for that is that bulk mailings have a series of steps they can perform to get postage discounts. CASS certification of the address is one of those. It requires lots of things be done to addresses - St. in a city name for example must be spelled out as "Saint" since St is used as the abbreviation for "street". you also have to consistently abbreviate the street names. You can't write out "Street" in the street name unless it's part of the actual name (ie, "Market Street Rd" would be fine, but not "Market Street"). Among the restrictions though is also a requirement that you use the full Zip+4 zip code.

I can't remember the exact discount but IIRC it's around $0.08 per letter. Not a lot, but where I'm at for example we do several large mailings per year that end up between 70,000 and 90,000 letters in volume. With postage bills for those things being tens of thousands for dollars, that $0.08 per letter adds up fast.

Re:Yes (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487616)

>> Its unclear to me which Netflix released.

At the most, the zip5 (and not full).

The address you see on the envelop can be (slightly) different than the one stored as part of your profile, because, most likely, as part of their mass-mailing program, they would do address standardization/correction and generate a more accurate address.

Re:Yes (4, Insightful)

TheSeventh (824276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487910)

Was it necessary to release the birth date of the users? As if the day of the month you were born in would matter in which movies you liked? No more than month and year should have been included, probably no more than the year.

The problem is most people don't think, and those that do, don't think about what they're doing from a security standpoint. "Will this work?" or "Will this be safe?" is vastly different from "Can this be abused?" or even "Is all of this really necessary?"

Re:Yes (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487028)

How large an area is a zip code in the states?

Depends on how many households and businesses there are in the area. In a rural setting a zip code may cover an entire city or county. In a heavily urbanized area it may only cover a single building or city block.

The five digit zip code doesn't tell the whole story though. There's actually the nine digit zip code plus a two digit delivery point code. Every single address in the United States will have a unique nine digit zip code + delivery code. It doesn't mean much to the layman but the USPS can actually represent every single address in the United States with an 11 digit number.

Re:Yes (1)

Diss Champ (934796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487086)

It depends on whether it is the long zip or the short zip. The short zip is 5 digits, and that's what most people use when sending personal letters and such; the shorter zip adds additional digits and narrows things considerably.

Some quick back of the envelope says that 5 digits has 100,000 combinations, meaning that you only have thousands of people (~3k) per zip (some zips more, some less, they assigned them before some population movement). With 366 possible birth days across a number of years (I'm assuming year is specified), even the 5 digit narrows things down uniquely for lots of people.

If they released the long zip, which they compute to speed their mailing based on your address, then it gets real easy to narrow things. The extra zip has another 4 digits!

Re:Yes (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487102)

Springfield, Il (Where Alderman Simpson lives) has a population of 110,000 and roughly five zip codes.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487496)

The UK comes under the European Data Protection Act. Any company releasing any personal data will be in deep shit if caught. The rules have also been tightened since the early version in 1984. If there's a remote chance someone receiving the data can piece bits together, expect a massive fine. Bizarrely, you can buy PAF and telephone directories on CDs though!

netflix tracks birthdates? (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487002)

I don't recall handing over my birthdate when I signed up for my account. I just went through all of the account screens and couldn't find it either. What part of their service expects you to tell them your birthday?

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (4, Informative)

fwice (841569) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487038)

I just signed up for an account. It asked for your birthday on the page with your address. However, it _was not_ mandatory.

I conveniently skipped the 'birthdate', 'gender', and 'your opinion of these genre' sections.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (1)

hrieke (126185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487254)

But, now depending on your movie selections a good system will be able to defer those bits of information.
Data leakage happens; just computers made it easier to do the grunt work.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487438)

But, now depending on your movie selections a good system will be able to infer those bits of information.
Data leakage happens; just computers made it easier to do the grunt work.

fixed that for you.

and the system, no matter how good, will not be able to infer OP's opinion of these genres.

it may, however, be able to infer that the user[s] of the account have a desire to have certain discs mailed to them.

Maybe the OP is a student in a course on film, required to see a certain set of movies. OP's _opinion_ of them could be that they are complete crap, but requests them to pass the course. :]

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (1)

hrieke (126185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487706)

Thanks for the correction.

On your line to a for film school- NF would notice a group in a zip code or a short distance from one another all selecting the same films- adding external data sources to this should be able to determine if someone is in school and if so what classes they are taking (see the ability to tie movie reviews to facebook data sets).
Further, the longer someone rents from NF the larger the dataset is, so a more complete idea of what the person likes and dislikes should pop out, and something like a film school course rentals would become noise.

Actually, from a movie studio's point of view, I'd want to data mine the NF data set to see what types of movies actually do well, cross broad demographics, and so on, and then make the crappy movies based on that criteria.
I'm sure the investors would demand that.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (3, Insightful)

bmearns (1691628) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487134)

I'm guessing they probably ask if you're renting adult material. If the mother was outed by the movies she rented, she was probably renting adult material.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487234)

Netflix has adult material on it? Why wasn't I aware of this awesome featur^W^Wmoral outrage? ;)

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (1)

bmearns (1691628) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487428)

Nope, sorry. I sit corrected. Neon Spiral Injector (#21234) pointed out that they do not.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (2, Informative)

Neon Spiral Injector (21234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487252)

Netflix has no "adult" material. Sure, a few NC-17 films (many of them for violence as much as sex), and some unrated titles, which may get a little blue. But nothing like the backroom of local rental stores.

They don't require an age to be specified because they assume if you have a credit card (which is required) then you can rent anything they have.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (1)

bmearns (1691628) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487410)

Huh, I had no idea, thanks for pointing that out. In that case, I don't get what she was renting that would out her. Ani Difranco videos?

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (2, Informative)

Neon Spiral Injector (21234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487466)

They do have a "Gay & Lesbian" genre, which includes such films as (from the first page):

Milk
The L Word
Angels in America
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Fried Green Tomatoes

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (1)

bmearns (1691628) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487544)

Man, I am battin' a thousand. I'm gonna go ahead and stop talking on this thread now. =J

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (4, Insightful)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487554)

And the crux of the lawsuit is the presumption that straight people are not allowed to like these movies...wait...I liked Milk quite a bit, and Angels in America was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. Damnit, my girlfriend is gonna kill me when I tell her I found out I was gay...via Slashdot no less.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487924)

I haven't seen any of those movies, but damn did I laugh hard in Victor/Victoria so I guess that means I'm gay, or at least a cross-dresser.

I also liked Robocop, so I'm outed as a cyborg (goes well with my transvestism). And since I'm a Star Trek fan too, now everyone knows where I got my cyborg technology, and they know the perverted details of my transvestism, which is that it's not so much about putting on dresses, as it means that I use a lot of green body paint. Nothing turns me on so much as "going over to the green side" (yes, I've rented Leprechaun 3 also) and seeing what it does to my gay cyborg lovers.

Re:netflix tracks birthdates? (1)

BOFslime (178524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487620)

I double checked my account profile and the only thing it has is birth year, which is used for age group movie recommendations. There is also a pull down menu for the account owner and any sub users on the account as to what movies they are allowed to rent/watch (instantly) Highest is R but there is also 'unrated family'. No where did I enter my full birth date, only year and gender. But this also looks partly removable (or you could lie), but I don't have anything to hide so I don't care and I will enjoy proper recommendations.

Birthdate? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487010)

The entire birthday? Holy crap! What did they expect?! Even just narrowing it down to birth year gives you a way to narrow the set considerably when combined with the other two items. What was wrong with the traditional "18-24, 25-40, etc." age ranges?

So lemme get this straight... (5, Insightful)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487016)

... this woman is a closeted lesbian. She came to the realization that, if someone hypothetical person were to come along and get into the NetFlix user data system, he could find out she's a lesbian. In order to protect herself from being potentially exposed, she decided to join a high-profile national lawsuit, charging that they had created a potential for people to find out her sexual preferences. How many days do you think it'll be before her picture is all over the web, sitting right next to the headline "formerly closeted lesbian pulled out of closet by attaching her name and face to a privacy lawsuit"?

Re:So lemme get this straight... (4, Informative)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487048)

In order to protect herself from being potentially exposed, she decided to join a high-profile national lawsuit, charging that they had created a potential for people to find out her sexual preferences. How many days do you think it'll be before her picture is all over the web, sitting right next to the headline "formerly closeted lesbian pulled out of closet by attaching her name and face to a privacy lawsuit"?

She filed as a Jane Doe to protect her privacy.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (3, Insightful)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487078)

Right. And of course the real names of people who file anonymously NEVER get out.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487138)

Right. And of course the real names of people who file anonymously NEVER get out.

To me that's a separate issue - anyone filling a Jane/John Doe lawsuit has to expect their name would eventually become public information.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (2, Interesting)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487302)

anyone filling a Jane/John Doe lawsuit has to expect their name would eventually become public information.

Exactly. So she's just come out on her own... in order to sue someone for the potential that someone going through their data MIGHT be able to figure out that she's a lesbian.

My point is still the same... she's given up on her privacy in order to sue someone for a potential (but not yet real) breach of privacy.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487392)

anyone filling a Jane/John Doe lawsuit has to expect their name would eventually become public information.

Exactly. So she's just come out on her own... in order to sue someone for the potential that someone going through their data MIGHT be able to figure out that she's a lesbian.

My point is still the same... she's given up on her privacy in order to sue someone for a potential (but not yet real) breach of privacy.

No, she sued for money

Re:So lemme get this straight... (5, Funny)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487606)

Because first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women. That's one clever lesbian!

Re:So lemme get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487568)

She has, apparently. The world's a strange place, buddy, I suggest you start getting used to it.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487898)

But if I get used to it, it will stop being so funny!

Honestly, I find the whole concept amusing. "You made it theoretically possible for some small number of people I don't know and will probably never meet to find out something about me I'd rather keep private. Therefore, I will do something much more likely to make that public among LOTS of people! THAT will show you!"

Re:So lemme get this straight... (2, Insightful)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487782)

While she may be suing for money, it's not unreasonable that she is willing to accept some backlash and her outing for the sake of justice. Companies would be able to get away with gross privacy breaches if there weren't people to keep them in check like this.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (3, Insightful)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487832)

My point is still the same... she's given up on her privacy in order to sue someone for a potential (but not yet real) breach of privacy.

It's a catch-22, no doubt, but at least this way she can possibly force Netflix to fix the initial problem.

She chose to be proactive, rather than sit and worry. Can't fault her for that. Besides, it is hardly a forgone conclusion that she will be revealed as the Jane Doe in a reasonable time frame.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487938)

True. And it's hardly a forgone conclusion that anyone she would ever meet would be involved in analyzing the data from NetFlix. Yes, there's an 87% success rate (according to the article), but how many people are actually doing that analysis? And how likely is it that they would publish the results in her town? Or than anyone in her town would READ the results if they were there?

Drawing attention to herself just ensures that anyone who does look will try to figure out who she is.

If she's consciously made that decision, fine -- more power to her! But I still find the concept entertaining, and a little bit puzzling.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487380)

That's Parent's point... She should expect that this info would get out... She's MORE likely to be outed by pursuing this suit than just letting things be.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487684)

Probably. But her reasoning for doing so is not entirely clear. Possibilities include:
o Money
o Honest outrage
o Conscious or subconscious desire to out herself
o Honest desire to prevent the outing of other people

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487396)

To me that's a separate issue - anyone filling a Jane/John Doe lawsuit has to expect their name would eventually become public information.

I don't know if that's true, there are plenty of lawsuits where anonymity is maintained. I'd guess most of them.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

Aeros (668253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487298)

It would be great if her real name really was Jane Doe eh?

Re:So lemme get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487338)

God, I hope not. Otherwise I am in a lot of trouble.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487390)

And if she wins, how exactly does she explain the influx of money to her family?

Re:So lemme get this straight... (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487478)

She's asking for injunctive relief. None of the plaintiffs will get money if they win.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487656)

I bet if she got more injunctive relief, she wouldn't be a lesbian.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487050)

More to the point, what data does Netflix have on you that reveals you to be a closed lesbian? I don't recall seeing a "Are you a closet homosexual?" button when I signed up for my account.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487140)

Netflix shows what you watch to others that are your "Netflix friends". It's a minor social network that allows you to pass recommendations to others. If they're really snoopy they can see what you watch...but there's also an option to cut that off that's about five clicks deep in the settings.

So, if all you do is rent skinimax flicks. Yeah, I could see feeling exposed...but honestly, I don't think it's a big deal.

If privacy is such a big deal to people, they need to get informed. End of story. You can't half-ass privacy. Either bury your identity or deal with the fact that if you put it out there...it's out there.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

bmearns (1691628) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487154)

I think the outter was the particular list of movies she was renting...

Re:So lemme get this straight... (5, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487194)

It's all the Rosie O'Donnell and Margaret Cho comedy specials in her queue.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487520)

I don't recall seeing a "Are you a closet homosexual?" button when I signed up for my account.

You wouldn't, it was a radio button.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487604)

More to the point, what data does Netflix have on you that reveals you to be a closed lesbian? I don't recall seeing a "Are you a closet homosexual?" button when I signed up for my account.

More to the point, is she a hot lesbian?

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487076)

IANAL, but she's filed the suit as Jane Doe. Whether this actually protects her or not someone who is a lawyer may be able to chime in.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487240)

Yes, it does.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487116)

Ain't America grand?

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

patrickthbold (1351131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487160)

Maybe she's "taking one for the team." Seriously, I really don't want these companies that have a lot of our private data to have the attitude that, "It doesn't matter if this gets out because if anyonesays anything then they will just draw more attention to themselves."

Re:So lemme get this straight... (1)

multisync (218450) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487162)

In order to protect herself from being potentially exposed, she decided to join a high-profile national lawsuit ... How many days do you think it'll be before her picture is all over the web

From TFA:

That's why the lesbian mom joined the lawsuit as a Jane Doe [wired.com] , according to the complaint

But bonus points for "lemme get this straight"

not quite (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487220)

She signed up for this netflix thing, then found out some actual researchers, not hypothetical ones, cracked the publicly available data for a couple of users. She then joined a class action suit but didn't use her real name.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487224)

...you put the lime in the coconut.

Re:So lemme get this straight... (0)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487300)

The woman bore a child as part of her cover. Not saying that means there aren't damages, but clearly there are some issues there with good decision making.

Filing as Jane Doe? (3, Interesting)

whoda (569082) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487036)

How can a legal-aged adult file as Jane Doe just because of her secret of being 'in the closet'?

Re:Filing as Jane Doe? (3, Informative)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487098)

How can a legal-aged adult file as Jane Doe just because of her secret of being 'in the closet'?

Simple - the judge gets to decide if her privacy rights outweigh the public interest in keeping lawsuit information available to the public. for more information see: http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/filing-a-lawsuit-anonymously.html [legalmatch.com]

To me allowing a Jane Doe suit in such cases is not unreasonable; whether or not her name wil eventually become public is another matter.

Re:Filing as Jane Doe? (0, Troll)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487250)

Throw in a good chance that if her id is revealed her husband may be able to divorce on grounds of infidelity. Realistically, for her to declare that she is "in closet" and that Netflix did something to jeopardize her status she is effectively stating she is or has committed adultery. Needless to say that would put her on weaker footing should a divorce case come along.

So, protection from self incrimination?

Re:Filing as Jane Doe? (5, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487540)

no. Being a lesbian does not mean she cheated on her husband, even if she is still married. For example, this is slashdot, I believe there are a lot of heterosexual men here who have never even touched a woman.

Re:Filing as Jane Doe? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487710)

For example, this is slashdot, I believe there are a lot of heterosexual men here who have never even touched a woman.

They don't want to cheat on themselves

Re:Filing as Jane Doe? (2, Insightful)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487722)

Infidelity? WTF? That's a major leap of logic. Because she prefers chicks, she obviously cheated on her husband? Who modded this up?

Re:Filing as Jane Doe? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487770)

Perhaps pecause being a lesbian in Los Angeles, CA (pop. 9,862,049 [census.gov] ) is very different from being a lesbian in Moss Landing, CA (pop. 304 [city-data.com] )? Not everyone is as broad minded as big city folks.

Outed by movie rentals? (4, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487100)

"The member’s movie data exposes a Netflix member’s personal interest and/or struggles with various highly personal issues, including sexuality, mental illness, recovery from alcoholism, and victimization from incest, physical abuse, domestic violence, adultery, and rape."

Isn't this a bit of a stretch. I've rented a rather broad range of films, over the past year some of the films I have watched include Apt Pupil, Lords of Dogtown, Girl Interrupted, A History of violence, A Beautiful Mind, Brokeback Mountain and Super High Me. Evidently I'm a mentally disturbed,abusive, homosexual, drug abusing, skateboarding, autistic nazi and didn't know it.

The woman who was outed wasn't outed by her movie choices but by her paranoia leading to her own disclosure.

Re:Outed by movie rentals? (4, Insightful)

ViViDboarder (1473973) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487342)

Exactly what I was going to post! This is crazy. Also, I'd really like to know how someone drew the conclusion that she was a Closet Lesbian from her movie rentals AND that someone randomly picked her out of the huge database AND then took the time to find out who she was and then took the time to notify all her friends... All this for the interest of being malicious towards a stranger they will probably never see...

Seems a little far-fetched.

Also, the summary is poorly written because it makes it seem like the Zipcodes and Birthdays have been released when they haven't. http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2009/12/doe-v-netflix.pdf [wired.com]

http://it.slashdot.org/story/07/11/27/1334244/Anonymity-of-Netflix-Prize-Dataset-Broken [slashdot.org] Shows that it's possible, but it's not like anyone could draw a conclusion on Sexuality with any certainty by those means.

Also, after reading the article it seems like they HAVEN'T released Birthdays and Zip Codes but that this is only planned for the second iteration. They only had unique ids for users and ratings... The privacy was breached by people datamining other resources. From what I gathered... the people got the identities of people by matching ratings with IMDB ratings... Which in that case I don't think Netflix really provides any more information about someone than they have already made public via IMDB.

Re:Outed by movie rentals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487546)

Seems a little far-fetched.

Wired

Also, the summary is poorly written...

kdawson
Wired + kdawson = (crap)^2

Um... (2, Insightful)

fredklein (532096) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487130)

If a data set reveals a person's ZIP code, birthdate and gender, there's an 87 percent chance that the person can be uniquely identified

What idiot answers all those questions correctly?

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487494)

I am 12 years old and what is this?

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487588)

I do not want to be perceived as rude, but I believe your mother could be one of them.

Re:Um... (1)

djdbass (1037730) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487730)

So there is an 87% chance that the person can be uniquely identified.
Though taking your point into account means there's only a 50% chance of that.

And then looking at that 50% chance, there's a 50% chance that that is right.
So the overall chance approaches zero. Amirite?

Re:Um... (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487916)

Yeah, only people who want deliveries to their actual house give their correct ZIP code!

If you don't have anything to hide (1)

KnownIssues (1612961) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487176)

Oh wait. What if you do?

They should've redacted such entries (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487210)

When some government agencies give statistical reports, they are very careful to suppress statistics that could lead to disclosure.

For example, in school accountability ratings and test results, if fewer than a certain number of students in a given grouping take the test, the average test scores for that grouping are suppressed. If I'm a parent of one of 2 White, non-Hispanic 3rd graders in a school and I know my Little Johnny scored a 73 on his Science standardized test, and I find out the average was a 60, and I know who the other White, non-Hispanic 3rd grader is, I now know his score. Oops.

Re:They should've redacted such entries (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487282)

According to the Complaint, netflix did do perturbation of the numbers but didn't do enough of it.

Congratulations! Now the world _knows_. (3, Interesting)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487244)

So while before all that was available was a list of rented films which she seems to think indicates that whoever rents them can indicate that the watcher is gay (which I'm having a hard time making the leap from "if someone watches movie X, Y, and Z, that means they are gay), now the whole world knows she is gay.

Where are the photos? (2, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487262)

Is she hot?

Re:Where are the photos? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487394)

No, this is a real-life lesbian, not a "lesiban" from porn. She probably looks like Rosie O'Donnell.

Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487264)

I watch movies with women gettin' it on together all the time. I guess my wife is in for quite a surprise when she finds out Netflix researchers discover she's a lesbian.

Don't you need to have actual damages? (2, Insightful)

joeflies (529536) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487278)

The way that I thought that it worked was that you sue in civil court when you actuall suffer damages even when the other party was doing something illegal.

For instance, you can't sue a drunk driver for almost hitting your car. You could press that they did something illegal and have him charged in criminal court, but there's no payday in that. Given that these types of cases seem to be this lawyer's modus operandi, I'm thinking that this case is more about the payday and not about building stronger standards for privacy.

Re:Don't you need to have actual damages? (3, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487356)

The way that I thought that it worked was that you sue in civil court when you actuall suffer damages even when the other party was doing something illegal.

In cases at law, for example tort or contract cases, you generally do. This is a case at equity, so the plaintiffs are trying to get injunctive relief (also attorneys fees, but that's considered ancillary to the injunction).

Stop giving out personal info that isn't needed (3, Insightful)

harmonise (1484057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487284)

if a data set reveals a person's ZIP code, birthdate and gender, there's an 87 percent chance that the person can be uniquely identified.

Why are you giving Netflix your birthdate and gender in the first place? I never give those things to companies, and if I can't avoid it (forced to enter something when signing up) I give bogus information. Neither of those are any of Netflix's business.

Re:Stop giving out personal info that isn't needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487580)

Why are you giving Netflix your birthdate and gender in the first place? I never give those things to companies, and if I can't avoid it (forced to enter something when signing up) I give bogus information. Neither of those are any of Netflix's business.

Yes, blame the victim. If she was told by Netflix in a written agreement that her data would not be disclosed as to be able to uniquely identify her, Netflix is in the wrong if they disclosed this data. Simple as that, irregardless of the stupidity of the person who trusted that the legally binding contract would not be broken.

Re:Stop giving out personal info that isn't needed (1)

harmonise (1484057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487702)

I wasn't blaming the victim and I never mentioned the victim. You put that connection together yourself so you should think about why YOU are blaming the victim. And "irregardless" isn't a word.

Re:Stop giving out personal info that isn't needed (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487646)

Certainly if you think some important secret of yours will be revealed by giving Netflix that information, you shouldn't give it. However, for me, I like giving them that information because they have used it to recommend movies quite successfully. I don't care if anybody knows I watched Kate & Leopold three times in a row. I'm not going to go out of my way to post what I watch on my FB profile, but if it was there, I wouldn't care.

Re:Stop giving out personal info that isn't needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487750)

If I can find it in the registration form, I always select "Zulu". I like that.

Re:Stop giving out personal info that isn't needed (1)

BOFslime (178524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487864)

OH-EM-GEE! they also have my FULL NAME and my CREDIT CARD INFORMATION! What was I thinking giving a company this information! (And they only thing they ask for is birthYEAR not birthdate. I'd rather get recommendation's for twenty-something male's then the chick flick crap a 30 something female would receive.. but hey.. to each their own.)

Stop. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487316)

Stop watching gay movies. This will prevent people from learning that you are... gay.

Jane Doe - If we don't know who the mom is.. (1)

log0n (18224) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487350)

then how was she outed?

The closet can be a scary, stupid place (5, Insightful)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487398)

Speaking as a gay guy with a lot of gay and lesbian friends, I can tell you that some people get really worked up over being "in the closet". They can start to worry about really stupid things that are outside of the bounds of possibility, and work themselves into all kinds of trouble.

Case in point: a friend of mine got herself fired over this. She knew that her supervisor didn't like gay people and so she was in the closet, as far as work was concerned. She got called up for jury duty. The court case didn't last long at all, but in the meantime, one of our mutual friends' father passed away. So, my friend was invited to the funeral which happened to fall on the day after her jury duty ended. She was so worked up over the idea that her boss would figure out that she's a lesbian if she took a personal day to go to her gay friend's dad's funeral that she lied and told her boss that she was still on jury duty for the day of the funeral. Well, the boss didn't like her and he called the court clerk to confirm that she was still on jury duty - and then fired her for lying about it.

Had she just took a personal day and said "I'm going to the funeral of a friend's dad" nothing would have happened. As far as I know, there's no mechanism by which you can figure out if the relatives of a dead person (whose name you don't have) are gay or not.

Maybe this lawsuit lady should read up on the Streisand Effect (you know her name's going to come out eventually), stop worrying so much about what other people think about her sexual orientation, and concentrate on living her life. Can she truly be deluded enough to think that anyone in her life (work, social, government or otherwise) is going to trawl netflix's database to figure out if she's a lesbian and then use that information against her?

Seriously, this is like when my boss didn't want to have his pay directly deposited because he thought the payroll company could snoop in his bank account. It's just not grounded in reality.

Ridiculous privacy revealed. We should say NO (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30487678)

This case shows the ridiculous extremes that "privacy" has come to. Netflix, apparently, has some sort of affirmative obligation to help this woman hide her illicit sexual escapades. The government is going to require Netflix to help cover up for her proclivities.

Lesbian romps are voluntary. Using Netflix is voluntary. Telling Netflix about yourself is voluntary. Netflix voluntarily rents you videos. Every aspect of this case involves people freely engaging in voluntary action. And now we're being asked to get the government involved to force Netflix to hide information against their will, and, by the way, hide it retroactive to several years ago.

Why shouldn't we just say no to people like this? No, we won't help you hide. No, we won't force other people (against their will) to help you hide. No. If you want to hide the things you do, try being more discreet next time.

Yuo Fail I't!? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30487812)

started 3ork8 on [goat.cx]
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>