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New Crypto Tool Makes Anonymous Surveys Truly Anonymous

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Artist's conception of cryptography.

Researchers at Cornell Tech have devised a survey service which, they say, makes it mathematically impossible for anyone to identity anonymous survey respondents.

Credit: Getty Images

Cornell Tech security researchers Rafael Pass and Abhi Shelat say it is possible for a survey service or hacker who has access to its servers to reveal links between responses and identifying information.  They have built a free survey alternative called Anonize, which they say makes it mathematically impossible for anyone to identify respondents, even with access to Anonize's servers.

Their system allows only a chosen group of respondents to submit answers, and only one response per person.

Respondents download the Anonize app to their smartphone, and the app generates a secret key derived from their email address that will never leave their device.  When a survey administrator creates a survey, the Anonize server generates a PGP-style public key derived from the email addresses of all the authorized respondents, who write their answer in the Anonize app and either submit it from the phone or from a desktop by scanning a quick response code.  A response string incorporates the survey's public key and changes with every survey to prevent survey creators from matching users between email lists.  The string is created using a method of proving a mathematical statement is true without knowing anything else about it, which enables the server to check for proof someone is authorized without learning anything about their identity.

From Wired
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