A New View of Privacy in Social Networks: Strengthening Privacy During Propagation

A New View of Privacy in Social Networks: Strengthening Privacy During Propagation

Wei Chang (Saint Joseph's University, USA) and Jie Wu (Temple University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8897-9.ch025
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Many smartphone-based applications need microdata, but publishing a microdata table may leak respondents' privacy. Conventional researches on privacy-preserving data publishing focus on providing identical privacy protection to all data requesters. Considering that, instead of trapping in a small coterie, information usually propagates from friend to friend. The authors study the privacy-preserving data publishing problem on a mobile social network. Along a propagation path, a series of tables will be locally created at each participant, and the tables' privacy-levels should be gradually enhanced. However, the tradeoff between these tables' overall utility and their individual privacy requirements are not trivial: any inappropriate sanitization operation under a lower privacy requirement may cause dramatic utility loss on the subsequent tables. For solving the problem, the authors propose an approximation algorithm by previewing the future privacy requirements. Extensive results show that this approach successfully increases the overall data utility, and meet the strengthening privacy requirements.
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Learning others' social features can significantly improve the performance of many mobile social network-related tasks, such as data routing (Wu & Wang, 2012), personalized recommendation (Feng & Wang, 2012) and social relationship prediction (Aiello et.al. 2012). In these scenarios, a participant needs access to a large volume of personal information in order to spot the pattern (Meyerson & Williams, 2004). A dataset, which consists of the information at the level of individual respondents, is known as microdata dataset. In order to protect the privacy of each individual respondent, data holders must carefully sanitize (also known as anonymize) the dataset before publishing. In the past decade, many privacy standards have been proposed, such as k-anonymity (Sweeney, 2002), l-diversity (Machanavajjhala et. al., 2007), and t-closeness (Li et.al, 2007).

Unlike the conventional centralized database system, where data requesters directly interact with data owners, information on a mobile social network is disseminated from user to user via multi-hop relays. Considering the well-known limitations with centralized systems, such as system bottlenecks or a single point of attacks problem, in this paper, we study the problem of multi-hop relay-based privacy-preserving data publishing, where a microdata table is gradually propagated from its original owner to distant people. However, under this scheme, the recipients will present different trust-levels regarding to the original data owner. Intuitively, after each time of relay, one should further provide more privacy protections on the data. For example, in Figure 1(a), along a social path with length K, each user eventually will get one copy of v0’s table, and we need the tables' privacy to be gradually reinforced, as shown by Figure 1(b). Data privacy and data utility are naturally at odds with each other (Meyerson & Williams, 2004): The more privacy a dataset preserves, the less utility the dataset has. This propagation scheme creates a unique problem: `for a group of friends, how can they create a series of tables with maximal overall data utility, and assure that the tables' privacy is increasingly protected at the same time?' To our best knowledge, this unique problem has never been proposed or solved.

Take Table 1 as an example. Suppose that l-diversity is the privacy requirement, and the total target propagation distance l is equal to 2. Assume that the corresponding participants are v0, v1 and v2. With the growing of the propagation distance, the parameter l becomes larger and larger (i.e. after the first hop, the table should satisfy 2-diversity, and after the second hop, it should satisfy 3-diversity). The original dataset is given by Table 1 (a). Figures 2(b) and (c) give the results by directly using anonymizing operations on the original table T0. We can see that the sanitized values are different in these two tables. However, during multi-hop relays, a participant can only observe the table passed from the previous one, and therefore, if v0 gives T1 to v1, v2 can only obtain Table 1(c), instead of T2. Consider that the tables, which satisfy (l + 1)-diversity, must satisfy l-diversity. For v0, he has two options for sending the dataset to v1: he either sends T3 or T2. For the first case, the user v1 only needs to forward T3 to v2 without any changes, while for the other case, v1 should further sanitize T2 and send the result T3 to v2. Clearly, we cannot simply claim which approach is better; this is because it depends on the utility value of each attribute. For instance, if we define that any suppression operation costs 1 unit of utility, then the first option loses a total of 12 units of utility (as 6 units of utility are lost for T1), while the second one costs 16 units (as 4 utility units are lost for T2 and 12 for T3). However, if the age attribute is more important than the zip code, assuming that suppression on age costs 2.5 units of utility and suppression on zip code costs 1, the utility loss of the second option becomes 28, while that of the first option is 30.

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