Privacy in Geo-social Networking Systems

Ebrahim Tarmeshloo
ICT 618B
Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 15:30

With the proliferation of the Internet and GPS enabled smartphones, Geo-Social Computing Systems (GSCS) have seen widespread adoption. Facebook, Twitter, Waze, Geofeedia, WeLink are among the many GSCS with various members and services.  These systems rapidly gained traction for two types of target users, a) GSCS members (data contributors), and b) GSCS data consumers.

For GSCS data contributors, these systems empower mobile members with knowledge of their vicinity, and thus significantly promote social interactions in contexts including transportation, marketing, health, and the general cultivation of personal and professional relationships.

The benefits of using GSCS are not limited to their members. The data that has been collected has high value in the analysis of different use cases within the context of urban planning, public safety, and social behaviors. One of the most well known consumers of GSCS data is Social Media Monitoring Systems (SMMS) that actively collect information from different social media channels. SMMS analyze volume, trend, and opinion about a topic or brand in different geographical area. WeLink, Snaptrends, and BlueJay are a few instances of SMMS.

Although GSCS deliver valuable services, they also generate a host of privacy challenges. Protecting members' identity and their location information is a notable challenge in GSCS. Close examination of nine real life GSCS applications enabled me to identify four major challenges that can lead to insufficient privacy protection for members of GSCS.

My seminar is structured based on the four identified privacy challenges that are categorized into two core perspectives on privacy issues in GSCS. Part I focuses on the privacy issues inside GSCS either as a single system or a federation of systems. The perspective for Part I is to look at privacy issues when a member wants to access another member's data. Part II looks at the privacy problems when geo-social networking systems make their members' data publicly available. The perspective for this part is to look at privacy issues when data recipient can access all members’ data yet in a sanitized format. I will discuss details of my contributions and findings as well as future directions within these two main perspectives.

This event is part of the Graduate Seminar Series brought to you by the Computer Science Department.