A Customizable k-Anonymity Model for Protecting Location Privacy

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Gedik, Bugra
Liu, Ling
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Continued advances in mobile networks and positioning technologies have created a strong market push for location-based services (LBSs). Examples include location-aware emergency services, location based service advertisement, and location sensitive billing. One of the big challenges in wide deployment of LBS systems is the privacy-preserving management of location-based data. Without safeguards, extensive deployment of location based services endangers location privacy of mobile users and exhibits significant vulnerabilities for abuse. In this paper, we describe a customizable k-anonymity model for protecting privacy of location data. Our model has two unique features. First, we provide a customizable framework to support k-anonymity with variable k, allowing a wide range of users to benefit from the location privacy protection with personalized privacy requirements. Second, we design and develop a novel spatio-temporal cloaking algorithm, called CliqueCloak, which provides location k-anonymity for mobile users of a LBS provider. The cloaking algorithm is run by the location protection broker on a trusted server, which anonymizes messages from the mobile nodes by cloaking the location information contained in the messages to reduce or avoid privacy threats before forwarding them to the LBS provider(s). Our model enables each message sent from a mobile node to specify the desired level of anonymity as well as the maximum temporal and spatial tolerances for maintaining the required anonymity. We study the effectiveness of the cloaking algorithm under various conditions using realistic location data synthetically generated using real road maps and traffic volume data. Our experiments show that the location k-anonymity model with multi-dimensional cloaking and tunable k parameter can achieve high guarantee of k anonymity and high resilience to location privacy threats without significant performance penalty.
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