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Researcher Finds 'network Privacy' an Online Oxymoron


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Northeastern University (NU) professor Alan Mislove has developed an algorithm that can predict the personal information of any given Facebook user in the Rice University network. Mislove's algorithm demonstrates that hiding, censoring, or blocking personal information does not necessarily protect anonymity.

By locating 10 to 20 percent of all residents of a particular residence hall, the algorithm can pick out other residents of the same building with 95 percent accuracy. By finding 20 to 30 percent of a university's students who enroll in a particular year, the algorithm can predict which other Facebook users came to the school at the same time. "Privacy is no longer a function of the things you do, it's also a function of what your friends and members of your community do," Mislove says.

As a post-doctoral researcher at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, he co-authored a paper on his research titled, "You Are Who You Know: Inferring User Profiles in Online Social Networks." Mislove presented the paper at the recent ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining.

From Northeastern University News
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