New technology would support both privacy and data sharing

New technology would support both privacy and data sharing

A maker of identity recognition software has come up with a scheme to allow organizations to share and compare data without compromising the privacy of individuals.

Anonymous Entity Resolution software, dubbed ANNA, uses a standard hashing algorithm to create a unique identifier for each piece of data about a person in an organization's files. Identifiers from different lists can be compared to discover matches without revealing the identity of the individual.

'This is a technique that allows us to look at large quantities of data, and only evaluate that data that is common to both sets,' said John Slitz, CEO of Systems Research and Development Inc. of Las Vegas. 'We've got it out in beta right now and we expect a commercial release in January.'

Several agencies are evaluating ANNA, and Slitz said he expects government, along with the financial and health care industries, to be among the early adopters.

'We get about 70 percent of our revenue from the government,' he said.

ANNA builds on two previous identity products, ERIK Identity Recognition Architecture, and NORA Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness. ERIK standardizes names, cleans up data about individuals and puts it into a common format for comparison. NORA looks for bits of information that could link individuals, such as a shared telephone number or address. ANNA adds anonymization to the mix and a tool to compare anonymous lists.

A hashing algorithm creates a unique digital signature when run against any piece of data. It cannot be reversed to reveal the original data, but two pieces of identical data will produce the same hash when the same algorithm is used on both. So identical names, Social Security numbers and other identifying data will each produce the same hashes if the holders of the data use the same tools.

This would let airport screeners compare passenger lists with government no-fly lists, for instance, without releasing identifying data from either list. When matches are found, the appropriate party could be notified to investigate further.

How many and what types of data fields must be identical before identities are matched will vary depending on the application, Slitz said.

'There is a scoring element to that,' he said.

SRD has not yet set a price for the product.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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