Six degrees of database separation

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According to Frigyes Karinthy, everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by six degrees of separation. You know some people and they now some other people and they know some others etc. until eventually everyone knows everyone.

In my peregrinations of late I am becoming more convinced that this is true, People I speak to say ‘Have you met so and so?’ and I am increasingly replying yes, I do know them. I know so many people even if the links at times are tenuous.

Yet that is not the thrust of my blog. I am increasingly interested in GDPR or the General Data Protection Regulations that come into force next year. The whole issue of privacy surrounding our data and the right to be forgotten is fascinating.

The questions I pose are ‘Is it impossible to be able to control access to your data and provide meaningful consent to its usage?’ These are enormous issues to grapple with especially when most of us and the organizations that interact with us don’t know what data about us is out there. Data will be given freely in some circumstances and withheld on others. It all depends upon context and the mood we are in at the time.

Remaining anonymous and being off the grid are going to become virtually impossible and I suspect it is all down to these six degrees but in reverse.

Just as you can move away from an individual and get to cover the globe through their connections, it must be possible to combine data sets in which information is held about us to hone in on an individual. Each data set will give a different facet, a new perspective on who we are. Cross matching will mean that no individual is unidentifiable.

But how many databases? My money is on six.

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