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How to De-Sensitize Data

  1. #1
    Forum Expert dflak's Avatar
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    How to De-Sensitize Data

    You stand a much better chance of getting your issue worked on if you can provide a sample workbook.

    Often workbooks contain sensitive or proprietary data. We certainly do not want to see this data, but there are tools you can use to obscure the data.

    Rule1: First of all, we probably do not need ALL of your records. Anywhere from several dozen to several hundred rows of data will do depending on the nature of the data.

    CTRL-H: In my case I work with wireless devices and the failure codes associated with returned models. The vendors would get really pissed off as in big-time litigation should this information become public.

    First, I filter down the list of 100 or so models to about 10 (See Rule 1). Then I use CTRL-H to replace Samsung Galaxy with Model 01, and iPhone 7S with Model 02 and so on.

    To further obfuscate the data, I will use Fail Code 01 through Fail Code 10 in order for the first 10 models (whatever they are) and then copy/past this block of error codes down for as much data as I have.

    This works if you have a fairly fixed set of values.

    Drag Down: Sometimes every record is unique. You can alias everything one at a time or you can type in Person 01 in the first row and drag the value down it will become Person 02, Person 03, etc.

    This works for Social Security Numbers XXX-XX-0001 or phone numbers XXX-XXX-0001 and just about anything else you can think of.

    RANDBETWEEN: Finally if the actual numbers are an issue, you can randomize them. Use RANDBETWEEN to assign values and then Copy the whole range and save as values only.

    I sometimes use RANDBETWEEN to assign failure codes.

    RANDBETWEEN can also be used with Dates. Base Date + RANDBETWEEN (0,180) will get a list of dates up to 180 days after the base date.
    One spreadsheet to rule them all. One spreadsheet to find them. One spreadsheet to bring them all and at corporate, bind them.

    A picture is worth a thousand words, but a sample spreadsheet is more likely to be worked on.

  2. #2
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    Re: How to De-Sensitize Data

    This should get 'sticky' status in each of the main help forums.

    I'd only add to the list one reminder: "Hiding" rows/columns/sheets with sensitive data is not the same as removing them.
    I can't believe it needs to be said, but I often find troves of client info on hidden sheets.
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  3. #3
    Forum Moderator AliGW's Avatar
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    Re: How to De-Sensitize Data

    It definitely needs to be said! Especially with the new GDPR rules in the EU: https://www.csoonline.com/article/32...and-facts.html

    Enthusiastic self-taught user of MS Excel who's always learning!
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  4. #4
    Forum Contributor Gregor y's Avatar
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    Re: How to De-Sensitize Data

    Also if you're a windows user, you should think about the meta-data

    right click the file(windows file explorer)>Properties(option)>Details(tab)>Remove Properties and Personal Information(link)>OK(button)

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  5. #5
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    Re: How to De-Sensitize Data

    These are some great tips, as I compile a file to post on my own thread, I will use these practices to make sure I de-sensitize the data. Thank you fellow members.

  6. #6
    Administrator FDibbins's Avatar
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    Re: How to De-Sensitize Data

    Quote Originally Posted by CAntosh View Post
    This should get 'sticky' status in each of the main help forums.
    I have made this a sticky.
    1. Use code tags for VBA. [code] Your Code [/code] (or use the # button)
    2. If your question is resolved, mark it SOLVED using the thread tools
    3. Click on the star if you think someone helped you


  7. #7
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    Re: How to De-Sensitize Data

    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor y View Post
    Also if you're a windows user, you should think about the meta-data

    right click the file(windows file explorer)>Properties(option)>Details(tab)>Remove Properties and Personal Information(link)>OK(button)

    Attachment 578859
    This is really tough to do on a Mac because each time I have to do it in per workbook. You have any suggestions on workarounds?

  8. #8
    Forum Moderator alansidman's Avatar
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    Re: How to De-Sensitize Data


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