“Privacy is a nonrenewable resource,” McSherry said. “Once it gets consumed, it is gone.”
The question of which value of Ɛ represents an acceptable privacy loss is ultimately a problem for society, not for computer scientists — and each person may give a different answer. And although the prospect of putting a price on something as intangible as privacy may seem daunting, a relevant analog exists.
“There’s another resource that has the same property — the hours of your life,” McSherry said. “There are only so many of them, and once you use them, they’re gone. Yet because we have a currency and a market for labor, as a society we have figured out how to price people’s time. We could imagine the same thing happening for privacy.”
Reprinted with permission from Simons Science News, an editorially independent division of SimonsFoundation.org whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the computational, physical and life sciences.