Archive for INSEE

on anonymisation

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2019 by xi'an

An article in the New York Times covering a recent publication in Nature Communications on the ability to identify 99.98% of Americans from almost any dataset with fifteen covariates. And mentioning the French approach of INSEE, more precisely CASD (a branch of GENES, as ENSAE and CREST to which I am affiliated), where my friend Antoine worked for a few years, and whose approach is to vet researchers who want access to non-anonymised data, by creating local working environments on the CASD machines  so that data does not leave the site. The approach is to provide the researcher with a dedicated interface, which “enables access remotely to a secure infrastructure where confidential data is safe from harm”. It further delivers reproducibility certificates for publications, a point apparently missed by the New York Times which advances the lack of reproducibility as a drawback of the method. It also mentions the possibility of doing cryptographic data analysis, again missing the finer details with a lame objection.

“Our paper shows how the likelihood of a specific individual to have been correctly re-identified can be estimated with high accuracy even when the anonymized dataset is heavily incomplete.”

The Nature paper is actually about the probability for an individual to be uniquely identified from the given dataset, which somewhat different from the NYT headlines. Using a copula for the distribution of the covariates. And assessing the model with a mean square error evaluation when what matters are false positives and false negatives. Note that the model need be trained for each new dataset, which reduces the appeal of the claim, especially when considering that individuals tagged as uniquely identified about 6% are not. The statistic of 99.98% posted in the NYT is actually a count on a specific dataset,  the 5% Public Use Microdata Sample files, and Massachusetts residents, and not a general statistic [which would not make much sense!, as I can easily imagine 15 useless covariates] or prediction from the authors’ model. And a wee bit anticlimactic.

Les Rouquins

Posted in pictures, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2017 by xi'an

end of a long era [1982-2017]

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2017 by xi'an

This afternoon I went to CREST to empty my office there from books and a few papers (like the original manuscript version of Monte Carlo Statistical Methods). This is because the research centre, along with the ENSAE graduate school (my Alma mater), is moving to a new building on the Saclay plateau, next to École Polytechnique. As part of this ambitious migration of engineering schools from downtown Paris to a brand new campus there. Without getting sentimental about this move, it means leaving the INSEE building in Malakoff, on the outskirts of downtown Paris, which has been an enjoyable part of my student and then academic life from 1982 till now. And also leaving the INSEE Paris Club runners! (I am quite uncertain about being as active at the new location, if only because going there by bike is a bit more of a challenge. To be addressed anyway!) And I left behind my accumulation of conference badges (although I should try to recycle them for the incoming BNP 11 in Paris!).

the other end of statistics

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , on February 8, 2017 by xi'an

A coincidence [or not] saw very similar papers appear in Le Monde and The Guardian within days. I already reported on the Doomsday tone of The Guardian tribune. The point of the other paper is essentially the same, namely that the public has lost trust in quantitative arguments, from the explosion of statistical entries in political debates, to the general defiance against experts, media, government, and parties, including the Institute of Official Statistics (INSEE), to a feeling of disconnection between statistical entities and the daily problems of the average citizen, to the lack of guidance and warnings in the publication of such statistics, to the rejection of anything technocratic… With the missing addendum that politicians and governments too readily correlate good figures with their policies and poor ones with their opponents’. (Just no blame for big data analytics in this case.)

more gray matters

Posted in pictures with tags , , , on March 21, 2015 by xi'an


Edmond Malinvaud (1923-2015)

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2015 by xi'an

The statistician, econometrician, macro- and micro-economist, Edmond Malinvaud died on Saturday, March 7. He had been director of my alma mater ENSAE (1962–1966), directeur de la Prévision at the Finance Department (1972–1974), director of INSEE (1974–1987), and Professeur at Collège de France (1988–1993). While primarily an economist, with his theories of disequilibrium and unemployment, reflected in his famous book Théorie macro-économique (1981) that he taught us at ENSAE, he was also instrumental in shaping the French econometrics school, see his equally famous Statistical Methods of Econometrics (1970), and in the reorganisation of INSEE as the post-war State census and economic planning tool. He was also an honorary Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and the 1981 president of the International Institute of Statistics. Edmond Malinvaud studied under Maurice Allais, Nobel Prize in economics in 1988, and was himself considered as a potential Nobel for several years. My personal memories of him at ENSAE and CREST are of a very clear teacher and of a kind and considerate man, with the reserve and style of a now-bygone era…

Professor position at ENSAE, on the Paris Saclay campus

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2015 by xi'an

There is an opening at the Statistics School ENSAE for a Statistics associate or full professor position, starting on September 2015. Currently located on the South-West boundary of Paris, the school is soon to move to the mega-campus of Paris Saclay, near École Polytechnique, along with a dozen other schools. See this description of the position. The deadline is very close, March 23!