SMU Data Science Review


In this paper, we present a case study evaluating the level of information available about an individual through public, Internet-accessible sources. Privacy is a basic tenet of democratic society, but technological advances have made access to information and the identification of individuals much easier through Internet-accessible databases and information stores. To determine the potential level of privacy available to an individual in today’s interconnected world, we sought to develop a detailed history of Marc Mezvinsky, a semi-public figure, husband of Chelsea Clinton, and son of two former members of the United States House of Representatives. By utilizing only publicly and freely available data sources accessible over the Internet, we developed a brief biography of Mr. Mezvinsky. We identified his residences throughout his life, his relatives, his businesses and business partners, and other personal aspects of his and his family's lives. We found all of this information even though Mr. Mezvinsky appears to actively avoid the use of online social networks and has clearly sought to minimize his online presence. A great deal of information is available, from photographs to property values to personal phone numbers, about individuals and their family members even if they try to retain some level of privacy. Today’s interconnected society is all social networks, tagged photos, and GPS locations. Constantly connected is only part of the paradigm that is today's society. As a whole, we are potentially losing the meaning of privacy, as well as what is ethically acceptable. As a society, we must determine the level of privacy, or its converse, the level of publicly available information, that is acceptable.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License