Revisiting distance-based record linkage for privacy-preserving release of statistical datasets

Javier Herranz, Jordi Nin, Pablo Rodríguez, Tamir Tassa

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Statistical Disclosure Control (SDC, for short) studies the problem of privacy-preserving data publishing in cases where the data is expected to be used for statistical analysis. An original dataset T containing sensitive information is transformed into a sanitized version T′ which is released to the public. Both utility and privacy aspects are very important in this setting. For utility, T′ must allow data miners or statisticians to obtain similar results to those which would have been obtained from the original dataset T. For privacy, T′ must significantly reduce the ability of an adversary to infer sensitive information on the data subjects in T. One of the main a-posteriori measures that the SDC community has considered up to now when analyzing the privacy offered by a given protection method is the Distance-Based Record Linkage (DBRL) risk measure. In this work, we argue that the classical DBRL risk measure is insufficient. For this reason, we introduce the novel Global Distance-Based Record Linkage (GDBRL) risk measure. We claim that this new measure must be evaluated alongside the classical DBRL measure in order to better assess the risk in publishing T′ instead of T. After that, we describe how this new measure can be computed by the data owner and discuss the scalability of those computations. We conclude by extensive experimentation where we compare the risk assessments offered by our novel measure as well as by the classical one, using well-known SDC protection methods. Those experiments validate our hypothesis that the GDBRL risk measure issues, in many cases, higher risk assessments than the classical DBRL measure. In other words, relying solely on the classical DBRL measure for risk assessment might be misleading, as the true risk may be in fact higher. Hence, we strongly recommend that the SDC community considers the new GDBRL risk measure as an additional measure when analyzing the privacy offered by SDC protection algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-93
Number of pages16
JournalData and Knowledge Engineering
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Distance-based record linkage
  • Privacy measures
  • Statistical Disclosure Control


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