Detecting and predicting privacy violations in online social networks

Research paper by Özgür Kafalı, Akın Günay, Pınar Yolum

Indexed on: 20 Mar '13Published on: 20 Mar '13Published in: Distributed and Parallel Databases


Online social networks have become an essential part of social and work life. They enable users to share, discuss, and create content together with various others. Obviously, not all content is meant to be seen by all. It is extremely important to ensure that content is only shown to those that are approved by the content’s owner so that the owner’s privacy is preserved. Generally, online social networks are promising to preserve privacy through privacy agreements, but still everyday new privacy leakages are taking place. Ideally, online social networks should be able to manage and maintain their agreements through well-founded methods. However, the dynamic nature of the online social networks is making it difficult to keep private information contained.We have developed \(\mathcal{PROTOSS}\), a run time tool for detecting and predicting \(\mathcal{PR}\mathrm{ivacy}\ \mathrm{vi}\mathcal{O}\mathrm{la}\mathcal{T}\mathrm{ions}\ \mathrm{in}\ \mathcal{O}\mathrm{nline}\ \mathcal{S}\mathrm{ocial}\ \mathrm{network}\mathcal{S}\). \(\mathcal{PROTOSS}\) captures relations among users, their privacy agreements with an online social network operator, as well as domain-based semantic information and rules. It uses model checking to detect if relations among the users will result in the violation of privacy agreements. It can further use the semantic information to infer possible violations that have not been specified by the user explicitly. In addition to detection, \(\mathcal{PROTOSS}\) can predict possible future violations by feeding in a hypothetical future world state. Through a running example, we show that \(\mathcal{PROTOSS}\) can detect and predict subtle leakages, similar to the ones reported in real life examples. We study the performance of our system on the scenario as well as on an existing Facebook dataset.