Randomization to preserve anonymity

Adam Pearce and Ellen Jiang for Google’s PAIR, explain how granular data can lead to easy identification of individuals and how randomization can help:

Aggregate statistics about private information are valuable, but can be risky to collect. We want researchers to be able to study things like the connection between demographics and health outcomes without revealing our entire medical history to our neighbors. The coin flipping technique in this article, called randomized response, makes it possible to safely study private information.