You are what you like! Information leakage through users' interests

Abdelberi Chaabane, Gergely Acs, Mohamed Ali Kaafar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Suppose that a Facebook user, whose age is hidden or missing, likes Britney Spears. Can you guess his/her age? Knowing that most Britney fans are teenagers, it is fairly easy for humans to answer this question. Interests (or "likes") of users is one of the highly-available on-line information. In this paper, we show how these seemingly harmless interests (e.g., music interests) can leak privacy sensitive information about users. In particular, we infer their undisclosed (private) attributes using the public attributes of other users sharing similar interests. In order to compare user-defined interest names, we extract their semantics using an ontologized version of Wikipedia and measure their similarity by applying a statistical learning method. Besides self-declared interests in music, our technique does not rely on any further information about users such as friend relationships or group belongings. Our experiments, based on more than 104K public profiles collected from Facebook and more than 2000 private profiles provided by volunteers, show that our inference technique efficiently predicts attributes that are very often hidden by users. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that user interests are used for profiling, and more generally, semantics-driven inference of private data is addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNDSS Symposium 2012
Subtitle of host publication19th Annual Network and Distributed System Security Symposium
Place of PublicationSan Diego, United States
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventNDSS Symposium 2012: 19th Annual Network & Distributed System Security Symposium - San Diego, United States
Duration: 5 Feb 20128 Feb 2012


ConferenceNDSS Symposium 2012
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


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