unFriendly: Multi-Party Privacy Risks in Social Networks

Chris Grier
David M. Nicol
Proceedings of the 10th Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium(2010)


As the popularity of social networks expands, the information users expose to the public has potentially dangerous implications for individual privacy. While social networks allow users to restrict access to their personal data, there is currently no mechanism to enforce privacy concerns over content uploaded by other users. As group photos and stories are shared by friends and family, personal privacy goes beyond the discretion of what a user uploads about himself and becomes an issue of what every network participant reveals. In this paper, we examine how the lack of joint privacy controls over content can inadvertently reveal sensitive information about a user including preferences, relationships, conversations, and photos. Specifically, we analyze Facebook to identify scenarios where conflicting privacy settings between friends will reveal information that at least one user intended remain private. By aggregating the information exposed in this manner, we demonstrate how a user’s private attributes can be inferred from simply being listed as a friend or mentioned in a story. To mitigate this threat, we show how Facebook’s privacy model can be adapted to enforce multi-party privacy. We present a proof of concept application built into Facebook that automatically ensures mutually acceptable privacy restrictions are enforced on group content.

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