4 - Generalization

The main idea of generalization is to \“blur\” the original data. For example, instead of saying \“Mister X was born on July 25, 1989\“, we can say \“Mister X was born is the 80\’s\“. The information is still true, but it is less precise and it can\’t be used to reidentify the subject.

The Story

Paul hired dozens of employees over the years. He kept a record of their hair color, size and medical condition.

Paul wants to extract weird stats from these details. He provides generalized views to Pierre.

Learning Objective

In this section, we will learn:

• The difference between masking and generalization
• The concept of \“K-anonymity\”

The \“employee\” table

``````DROP TABLE IF EXISTS employee CASCADE;

CREATE TABLE employee (
id INT PRIMARY KEY,
full_name  TEXT,
first_day DATE, last_day DATE,
height INT,
hair TEXT, eyes TEXT, size TEXT,
asthma BOOLEAN,
CHECK(hair = ANY(ARRAY['bald','blond','dark','red'])),
CHECK(eyes = ANY(ARRAY['blue','green','brown'])) ,
CHECK(size = ANY(ARRAY['S','M','L','XL','XXL']))
);``````

::: caution

This is awkward and illegal.

:::

``````curl -Ls https://dali.bo/employee -o /tmp/employee.tsv
``COPY employee FROM '/tmp/employee.tsv'``
``SELECT count(*) FROM employee;``
``````SELECT full_name,first_day, hair, size, asthma
FROM employee
LIMIT 3;``````

Data suppression

Paul wants to find if there\’s a correlation between asthma and the eyes color.

He provides the following view to Pierre.

``````DROP MATERIALIZED VIEW IF EXISTS v_asthma_eyes;

CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW v_asthma_eyes AS
SELECT eyes, asthma
FROM employee;``````
``````SELECT *
FROM v_asthma_eyes
LIMIT 3;``````

Pierre can now write queries over this view.

``````SELECT
eyes,
100*COUNT(1) FILTER (WHERE asthma) / COUNT(1) AS asthma_rate
FROM v_asthma_eyes
GROUP BY eyes;``````

Pierre just proved that asthma is caused by green eyes.

K-Anonymity

The \‘asthma\’ and \‘eyes\’ are considered as indirect identifiers.

``````SECURITY LABEL FOR anon ON COLUMN v_asthma_eyes.eyes
IS 'INDIRECT IDENTIFIER';

SECURITY LABEL FOR anon ON COLUMN v_asthma_eyes.asthma
IS 'INDIRECT IDENTIFIER';``````
``SELECT anon.k_anonymity('v_asthma_eyes');``

The v_asthma_eyes has \‘2-anonymity\‘. This means that each quasi-identifier combination (the \‘eyes-asthma\’ tuples) occurs in at least 2 records for a dataset.

In other words, it means that each individual in the view cannot be distinguished from at least 1 (k-1) other individual.

Range and Generalization functions

``````DROP MATERIALIZED VIEW IF EXISTS v_staff_per_month;
CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW v_staff_per_month AS
SELECT
anon.generalize_daterange(first_day,'month') AS first_day,
anon.generalize_daterange(last_day,'month') AS last_day
FROM employee;``````
``````SELECT *
FROM v_staff_per_month
LIMIT 3;``````

Pierre can write a query to find how many employees were hired in november 2021.

``````SELECT COUNT(1)
FILTER (
WHERE make_date(2019,11,1)
BETWEEN lower(first_day)
AND COALESCE(upper(last_day),now())
)
FROM v_staff_per_month;``````

Declaring the indirect identifiers

Now let\’s check the k-anonymity of this view by declaring which columns are indirect identifiers.

``````SECURITY LABEL FOR anon ON COLUMN v_staff_per_month.first_day
IS 'INDIRECT IDENTIFIER';

SECURITY LABEL FOR anon ON COLUMN v_staff_per_month.last_day
IS 'INDIRECT IDENTIFIER';

SELECT anon.k_anonymity('v_staff_per_month');``````

In this case, the k factor is 1 which means that at least one unique individual can be identified directly by his/her first and last dates.

Exercices

E401 - Simplify `v_staff_per_month` and decrease granularity

Generalizing dates per month is not enough. Write another view called \‘v_staff_per_year\’ that will generalize dates per year.

Also simplify the view by using a range of int to store the years instead of a date range.

E402 - Staff progression over the years

How many people worked for Paul for each year between 2018 and 2021?

E403 - Reaching 2-anonymity for the `v_staff_per_year` view

What is the k-anonymity of ‘v_staff_per_month_years’?

Solutions

S401

``````DROP MATERIALIZED VIEW IF EXISTS v_staff_per_year;

CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW v_staff_per_year AS
SELECT
int4range(
extract(year from first_day)::INT,
extract(year from last_day)::INT,
'[]'
) AS period
FROM employee;``````

:::tip ‘[]’ will include the upper bound :::

``````SELECT *
FROM v_staff_per_year
LIMIT 3;``````

S402

``````SELECT
year,
COUNT(1) FILTER (
WHERE year <@ period
)
FROM
generate_series(2018,2021) year,
v_staff_per_year
GROUP BY year
ORDER BY year ASC;``````

S403

``````SECURITY LABEL FOR anon ON COLUMN v_staff_per_year.period
IS 'INDIRECT IDENTIFIER';

SELECT anon.k_anonymity('v_staff_per_year');``````