Privacy Centric Naming of Humans

Griffin Boyce griffin at
Thu May 28 13:28:36 PDT 2015

grarpamp wrote:
> The common naming triple of First Middle Last may result in more
> uniqueness than desired... a life sentence imposed upon you by
> parents unaware of privacy, databasing, freedom to reassociate, and
> related issues.
> What of defense of naming with the minimum number of bits required,
> in the minimum number of fields required? For example, on that root
> of all human databases, the typical birth certificate.

   One should also be aware of the implications of giving a child a very 
common name.  I've known several "Chris Brown"s and an unreasonable 
number of "John Smith"s.  Though one should be aware also of what German 
sociologists call 'Kevinismus' [1] -- the recognition that all names 
come with cultural attachments, and not all of them positive.  I get 
asked fairly regularly if I'm Welsh (nope) since that's the association 
people make between heraldry and anglicized last names.

   Being anonymous or easily confused with another person is not all 
positive.  In fact, I would say that it's mostly a negative.  My name is 
uncommon, but I went by a nickname for years because it was more 
interesting.  It also offered some amount of protection in the days 
before anyone could just buy my LexisNexis profile and know my weird 
middle name and past lovers' names and how many freckles I have.  Now?  
Not so much.  Any name plus one or two additional data points is enough 
to clearly identify someone in a dataset.

   In my case, the benefits of having a relatively uncommon name outweigh 
the downsides.  I still have the freedom to do things anonymously or 
under a pseudonym, and use that freedom on a regular basis.  And if my 
name were so unique as to cause me problems, changing it is about $250. 


[2] If there is such a thing as a "real name" -- I'm unconvinced -- then 
Griffin Boyce is mine.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
― Dr. Seuss

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