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CITP Luncheon Speaker Series: Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye – Computational Privacy: The privacy bounds of human behavior

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

This lunch talk will not be live-streamed or videotaped.

Food and discussion begin at 12:30 pm. Open to current Princeton faculty, staff, and students. Open to members of the public by invitation only. Please contact Laura Cummings-Abdo at if you are interested in attending a particular lunch.

We’re living in an age of big data, a time when most of our movements and actions are collected and stored in real time. Large-scale mobile phone, credit card, or browsing datasets dramatically increase our capacity to measure, understand, and potentially affect the behavior of individuals and collectives.

The use of this data, however, raise legitimate privacy concerns. In this talk, de Montjoye will first show how the mere absence of obvious identifiers such as name or phone number is often not enough to prevent re-identification. He will then discuss how, as the use of this data progress, it will become increasingly important to consider whether sensitive information can be inferred from apparently innocuous data. Finally, he will discuss the impact of metadata on society and some of solutions he has been developing to allow metadata to be used in a privacy-conscientious way.


Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye is a senior PhD student in computational privacy at the MIT Media Lab. His research aims at understanding how the unicity of human behavior impacts the privacy of individuals—through re-identification or inference–in large-scale metadata datasets such as mobile phone, credit cards, or browsing data. His research has been published in Science and Nature SRep. and covered by the BBC, CNN, and the New York Times. Before coming to MIT, he was a researcher at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. Yves-Alexandre worked for the Boston Consulting Group and acted as an expert for both the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations. Over a period of 6 years, he obtained an M.Sc. from Louvain in Applied Mathematics, an M.Sc.(Centralien) from Ecole Centrale Paris, an M.Sc. from KULeuven in Mathematical Engineering as well as his B.Sc. in engineering at Louvain.