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Communications of the ACM


Inverse Privacy

Inverse Privacy, illustrative photo

Credit: Sandra Tester

Call an item of your personal information inversely private if some party has access to it but you do not. The provenance of your inversely private information can be totally legitimate. Your interactions with various institutions—employers, municipalities, financial institutions, health providers, police, toll roads operators, grocery chains, and so forth—create numerous items of personal information, for example, shopping receipts and refilled prescriptions. Due to progress in technology, institutions have become much better than you in recording data. As a result, shared data decays into inversely private. More inversely private information is produced when institutions analyze your private data.

Your inversely private information, whether collected or derived, allows institutions to serve you better. But access to that information—especially if it were presented to you in a convenient form—would do you much good. It would allow you to correct possible errors in the data, to have a better idea of your health status and your credit rating, and to identify ways to improve your productivity and quality of life.


Mukesh Saini

The idea of inverse privacy has already been discussed nicely and intuitively in the following paper: Absence Privacy Loss (

It is so unfortunate to see that the paper wasn't event cited in the article!

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