from the there-are-degrees-of-anonymity dept.
KentuckyFC writes "The anonymity of the Netflix Prize dataset has been broken by a pair of computer scientists from the University of Texas, according to a report from the physics arXivblog. It turns out that an individual's set of ratings and the dates on which they were made are pretty unique, particularly if the ratings involve films outside the most popular 100 movies. So it's straightforward to find a match by comparing the anonymized data against publicly available ratings on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) (abstract on the physics arxiv). The researchers used this method to find how individuals on the IMDb privately rated films on Netflix, in the process possibly working out their political affiliation, sexual preferences and a number of other personal details"
...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has
been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor.
- Fred Brooks, Jr.