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from the author -- Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Mon, 2 Mar 2009 09:05:05 -0500



Begin forwarded message:

From: "Edelman, Benjamin" <bedelman () hbs edu>
Date: March 2, 2009 8:35:54 AM EST
To: "dave () farber net" <dave () farber net>
Subject: RE: [IP] Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers

Dave,

I wrote the underlying paper being discussed in this thread. For anyone interested in the full paper, not just news coverage thereof, it's at http://people.hbs.edu/bedelman/papers/redlightstates.pdf .

To your readers' questions about privacy protections: The data I received had very few fields -- just zip code, date of subscription, and a very little bit of information about purchase (subscription duration, whether a new subscription). No names, no email addresses, no street addresses, no credit card numbers, nothing in that vein.

Brock's privacy concerns are well-taken in the abstract, and I share his general concerns. But I don't think those concerns have much bite given the limited data I received. To his question about the quality of the data-processing: My data source provided this data correctly, promptly, and just as described above.


Ben Edelman


-----Original Message-----
From: James Grimmelmann [mailto:james.grimmelmann () gmail com] On Behalf Of James Grimmelmann
Sent: Monday, March 02, 2009 8:18 AM
To: Ben Edelman
Subject: Fwd: [IP] Re: Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers

You might want to respond to this conversation taking place on Dave
Farber's list.  I read your paper to say that you got a multiset of
zip codes and nothing else, but others are making some ungenerous
assumptions about the privacy protections of your research methods.

James


Begin forwarded message:

From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: March 2, 2009 1:51:50 AM EST
To: "ip" <ip () v2 listbox com>
Subject: [IP] Re:   Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest
consumers
Reply-To: dave () farber net



Begin forwarded message:

From: Peter Swire <peter () peterswire net>
Date: March 1, 2009 10:12:42 PM EST
To: "dave () farber net" <dave () farber net>
Subject: RE: [IP] Re:    Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest
consumers

Brock Meeks asks very good questions, which essentially boil down to
this -- was the research done consistent with strong privacy
protections?

As Brock and many readers of this list know, there have been painful
episodes where data was released for research purposes in the belief
that privacy was protected.  Then, the data was linked to an
individual.  One example was when AOL released the records of online
searches, and a number of the indviduals were identified.  As a more
general matter, LaTanya Sweeney and others have shown that
"deidentified" data can often be "reidentified."

On the other hand, research is often a Good Thing.  In the medical
realm, research can go forward consistent with the HIPAA privacy
rule in several ways -- consent by the patient, deidentification,
approval by the Institutional Review Board, or subject to a data use
agreement.

Other privacy laws, and many privacy policies, do not have any
similar path to conducting research.

I think policymakers, and readers of this list, should want to
accomplish the Good Thing of research and the Good Thing of privacy
when possible.  As a rough guide, the following should be considered:

1. Release data to researchers in truly deidentified form.  That may
have happened in the porn study, if the data was kept at the zip
code level.  (Then again, the list of credit card purchases may be
like the AOL list of search terms -- some purchases or search terms
are idiosyncratic enough that, combined with public records, the
person can be identified.)

2. Consider creating Institutional Review Boards or the equivalent
so that good practices are followed.  It is true that IRBs can be a
bureaucratic burden.  But they also are an institutional mechanism
to come up with protocols that meet good standards.

3. Consider releasing the data under data use agreements that bind
the researchers.  In this way, the researcher breaches a contract if
names or other personal data are released outside the scope of the
permitted research.

Steps such as these can help us get useful research while also
protecting individuals against privacy invasions they can't control.

Peter

Prof. Peter P. Swire
C. William O'Neill Professor of Law
Moritz College of Law of the Ohio State University
Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
(240) 994.4142, www.peterswire.net


-----Original Message-----
From: David Farber [mailto:dave () farber net]
Sent: Sunday, March 01, 2009 6:02 PM
To: ip
Subject: [IP] Re: Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers



Begin forwarded message:

From: "Brock N. Meeks" <bmeeks () cox net>
Date: March 1, 2009 1:50:27 PM EST
To: <dave () farber net>, <jwarren () well com>
Subject: Re: [IP] Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers

Leaving the original <ahem> thrust of this message aside, my foremost
question was "how did the researcher obtain this data?"

I've known Jim Warren for a couple of decades and I know how he values
privacy, which is why I'm curious as to why Jim didn't raise the
subject
himself.

In the New Scientist article, we read the researcher has a client that
runs
adult entertainment web sites and that this company provided the
researcher
"with roughly two years of credit card data from 2006 to 2008 that
included
a purchase date and each customer's postal code."

Say what?  I'm sure the last thing these subscribers thought their
credit
card info would be used for was any kind of social behavior study.

Perhaps the "privacy" policies of such web sites informed subscribers
that
such a use of their information would be possible (I've not studied
the
privacy policies of such web sites, I just look at the pictures...
Wait...)

If say, oh, for example, the Airline industry, turned over this kind
of
"anonymized"  credit card data to homeland security for a study of
(whatever) I think Jim would be more than a bit concerned.

Now, I suppose such a hypothetical sets up a comparison as to who is
the
more trustworthy:  the adult entertainment industry, the researcher,
the
airline industry or Uncle Sam.  I leave that debate to more informed
colleagues.

--Brock






On 3/1/09 10:21 AM, "David Farber" <dave () farber net> wrote:



Begin forwarded message:

From: Jim Warren <jwarren () well com>
Date: February 28, 2009 4:27:59 PM EST
To: Dave Farber <dave () farber net>
Subject: Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers

From the New Scientist - http://bit.ly/ZkOq
27 February 2009 by Ewen Callaway

Americans may paint themselves in increasingly bright shades of red
and blue, but new research finds one thing that varies little across
the nation: the liking for online pornography.

A new nationwide study (pdf) of anonymised credit-card receipts
from a
major online adult entertainment provider finds little variation in
consumption between states.

"When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the
same than different," says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business
School.

However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states
that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and
religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study
finds.

...<big snip>...






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