Privacy and the City: user identification and location semantics in location-based social networks

Luca Rossi, Matthew Williams, Christoph Stich, Mirco Musolesi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

With the advent of GPS enabled smartphones, an increasing number of users is actively sharing their location through a variety of applications and services. Along with the continuing growth of Location-Based Social Networks (LBSNs), security experts have increasingly warned the public of the dangers of exposing sensitive information such as personal location data. Most importantly, in addition to the geographical coordinates of the user’s location, LBSNs allow easy access to an additional set of characteristics of that location, such as the venue type or popularity. In this paper, we investigate the role of location semantics in the identification of LBSN users. We simulate a scenario in which the attacker’s goal is to reveal the identity of a set of LBSN users by observing their check-in activity. We then propose to answer the following question: what are the types of venues that a malicious user has to monitor to maximize the probability of success? Conversely, when should a user decide whether to make his/her check-in to a location public or not? We perform our study on more than 1 million check-ins distributed over 17 urban regions of the United States. Our analysis shows that different types of venues display different discriminative power in terms of user identity, with most of the venues in the “Residence” category providing the highest re-identification success across the urban regions. Interestingly, we also find that users with a high entropy of their check-ins distribution are not necessarily the hardest to identify, suggesting that it is the collective behaviour of the users’ population that determines the complexity of the identification task, rather than the individual behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (AAAI ICWSM'15)
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media - Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 May 201529 May 2015

Conference

Conference9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media
Abbreviated titleICWSM-15
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityOxford
Period26/05/1529/05/15

Fingerprint

Semantics
Smartphones
Network security
Global positioning system
Entropy

Bibliographical note

© 2015, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (www.aaai.org). All rights reserved.

Cite this

Rossi, L., Williams, M., Stich, C., & Musolesi, M. (2015). Privacy and the City: user identification and location semantics in location-based social networks. In Proceedings of the 9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (AAAI ICWSM'15)
Rossi, Luca ; Williams, Matthew ; Stich, Christoph ; Musolesi, Mirco. / Privacy and the City : user identification and location semantics in location-based social networks. Proceedings of the 9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (AAAI ICWSM'15). 2015.
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Rossi, L, Williams, M, Stich, C & Musolesi, M 2015, Privacy and the City: user identification and location semantics in location-based social networks. in Proceedings of the 9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (AAAI ICWSM'15). 9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, Oxford, United Kingdom, 26/05/15.

Privacy and the City : user identification and location semantics in location-based social networks. / Rossi, Luca; Williams, Matthew; Stich, Christoph; Musolesi, Mirco.

Proceedings of the 9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (AAAI ICWSM'15). 2015.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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T1 - Privacy and the City

T2 - user identification and location semantics in location-based social networks

AU - Rossi, Luca

AU - Williams, Matthew

AU - Stich, Christoph

AU - Musolesi, Mirco

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Rossi L, Williams M, Stich C, Musolesi M. Privacy and the City: user identification and location semantics in location-based social networks. In Proceedings of the 9th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (AAAI ICWSM'15). 2015