Visible to the public Biblio

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Shokri, Reza, Theodorakopoulos, George, Troncoso, Carmela.  2016.  Privacy Games Along Location Traces: A Game-Theoretic Framework for Optimizing Location Privacy. ACM Trans. Priv. Secur.. 19:11:1–11:31.

The mainstream approach to protecting the privacy of mobile users in location-based services (LBSs) is to alter (e.g., perturb, hide, and so on) the users’ actual locations in order to reduce exposed sensitive information. In order to be effective, a location-privacy preserving mechanism must consider both the privacy and utility requirements of each user, as well as the user’s overall exposed locations (which contribute to the adversary’s background knowledge). In this article, we propose a methodology that enables the design of optimal user-centric location obfuscation mechanisms respecting each individual user’s service quality requirements, while maximizing the expected error that the optimal adversary incurs in reconstructing the user’s actual trace. A key advantage of a user-centric mechanism is that it does not depend on third-party proxies or anonymizers; thus, it can be directly integrated in the mobile devices that users employ to access LBSs. Our methodology is based on the mutual optimization of user/adversary objectives (maximizing location privacy versus minimizing localization error) formalized as a Stackelberg Bayesian game. This formalization makes our solution robust against any location inference attack, that is, the adversary cannot decrease the user’s privacy by designing a better inference algorithm as long as the obfuscation mechanism is designed according to our privacy games. We develop two linear programs that solve the location privacy game and output the optimal obfuscation strategy and its corresponding optimal inference attack. These linear programs are used to design location privacy–preserving mechanisms that consider the correlation between past, current, and future locations of the user, thus can be tuned to protect different privacy objectives along the user’s location trace. We illustrate the efficacy of the optimal location privacy–preserving mechanisms obtained with our approach against real location traces, showing their performance in protecting users’ different location privacy objectives.

Hayes, Jamie, Troncoso, Carmela, Danezis, George.  2016.  TASP: Towards Anonymity Sets That Persist. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM on Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society. :177–180.

Anonymous communication systems are vulnerable to long term passive "intersection attacks". Not all users of an anonymous communication system will be online at the same time, this leaks some information about who is talking to who. A global passive adversary observing all communications can learn the set of potential recipients of a message with more and more confidence over time. Nearly all deployed anonymous communication tools offer no protection against such attacks. In this work, we introduce TASP, a protocol used by an anonymous communication system that mitigates intersection attacks by intelligently grouping clients together into anonymity sets. We find that with a bandwidth overhead of just 8% we can dramatically extend the time necessary to perform a successful intersection attack.

Oya, Simon, Troncoso, Carmela, Pèrez-Gonzàlez, Fernando.  2019.  Rethinking Location Privacy for Unknown Mobility Behaviors. 2019 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy (EuroS P). :416–431.
Location Privacy-Preserving Mechanisms (LPPMs) in the literature largely consider that users' data available for training wholly characterizes their mobility patterns. Thus, they hardwire this information in their designs and evaluate their privacy properties with these same data. In this paper, we aim to understand the impact of this decision on the level of privacy these LPPMs may offer in real life when the users' mobility data may be different from the data used in the design phase. Our results show that, in many cases, training data does not capture users' behavior accurately and, thus, the level of privacy provided by the LPPM is often overestimated. To address this gap between theory and practice, we propose to use blank-slate models for LPPM design. Contrary to the hardwired approach, that assumes known users' behavior, blank-slate models learn the users' behavior from the queries to the service provider. We leverage this blank-slate approach to develop a new family of LPPMs, that we call Profile Estimation-Based LPPMs. Using real data, we empirically show that our proposal outperforms optimal state-of-the-art mechanisms designed on sporadic hardwired models. On non-sporadic location privacy scenarios, our method is only better if the usage of the location privacy service is not continuous. It is our hope that eliminating the need to bootstrap the mechanisms with training data and ensuring that the mechanisms are lightweight and easy to compute help fostering the integration of location privacy protections in deployed systems.