Profile Aware ObScure Logging (PaOSLo): a web search privacy-preserving protocol to mitigate digital traces

Mohib Ullah*, Rafi Ullah Khan, Irfan Ullah Khan, Nida Aslam, Sumayh S. Aljameel, Muhammad Inam Ul Haq, Muhammad Arshad Islam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Web search querying is an inevitable activity of any Internet user. The web search engine (WSE) is the easiest way to search and retrieve data from the Internet. The WSE stores the user's search queries to retrieve the personalized search result in a form of query log. A user often leaves digital traces and sensitive information in the query log. WSE is known to sell the query log to a third party to generate revenue. However, the release of the query log can compromise the security and privacy of a user. In this work, we propose a Profile Aware ObScure Logging (PaOSLo) Web search privacy-preserving protocol that mitigates the digital traces a user leaves in Web searching. PaOSLo systematically groups users based on profile similarity. The primary objective of this work is to evaluate the impact of the systematic group compared to random grouping. We first computed the similarity between the users' profiles and then clustered them using the K-mean algorithm to group the users systematically. Unlikability and indistinguishability are the two dimensions in which we have measured the privacy of a user. To compute the impact of systematic grouping on a user's privacy, we have experimented with and compared the performance of PaOSLo with modern distributed protocols like OSLo and UUP(e). Results show that, at the top degree of the ODP hierarchy, PaOSLo preserved 10% and 3% better profile privacy than the modern distributed protocols mentioned above. In addition, the PaOSLo has less profile exposure for any group size and at each degree of the ODP hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2109024
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalSecurity and Communication Networks
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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