Machine Learning (Theory)


Netflix Challenge 2 Canceled

Tags: Announcements,Competitions jl@ 6:33 pm

The second Netflix prize is canceled due to privacy problems. I continue to believe my original assessment of this paper, that the privacy break was somewhat overstated. I still haven’t seen any serious privacy failures on the scale of the AOL search log release.

I expect privacy concerns to continue to be a big issue when dealing with data releases by companies or governments. The theory of maintaining privacy while using data is improving, but it is not yet in a state where the limits of what’s possible are clear let alone how to achieve these limits in a manner friendly to a prediction competition.

3 Comments to “Netflix Challenge 2 Canceled”
  1. […] Posted by asarwate under Uncategorized | Tags: privacy | Leave a Comment  Via John Langford, I learned that the sequel to the Netflix Prize has been cancelled due to privacy concerns. The […]

  2. asarwate says:

    One response to these kind of problems is to pull the data and require people to sign a form saying they will not try to re-identify individuals. When Homer et. al showed an attack on the genome-wide association study (GWAS), the NIH did this. Of course, this sort of defeats the purpose of Netflix’s experiment.

  3. Jack K says:

    Interesting article that discusses changes to Netflix’ business which caused them not to implement the winning entry.

    When the contest began in 2006, most customers were using the slow-turnaround DVD-by-mail system, where a bad choice meant waiting a few days. Any improvement to recommendation systems that would cause fewer “lost days” would be a needed improvement to such a system.

    Now, however, the bulk of Netflix customers use the streaming interface, which allows users to change their minds in real time, so the recommender is no longer such a pressing need.

    One technical tidbit in the article is a discussion of which algorithms Netflix chose to use.


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