Here’s the problem with anonymized data: if it were truly anonymized, it wouldn’t be useful to anyone for anything. With enough data about a person–say, their age, gender, and zip code–it’s not hard to narrow down who someone is. That’s the idea behind a class-action lawsuit against Netflix regarding the customer data they released to the public as part of the Netflix Prize project, a contest to help create better movie recommendations. A closeted lesbian alleges that the data available about her could reveal her identity.
A customer complained to Macy’s about their removal of gay mannequins from Boston window displays in response to a campaign by an anti-gay religious group.