Attribute Inference Attacks in Online Social Networks

Journal Article

We propose new privacy attacks to infer attributes (e.g., locations, occupations, and interests) of online social network users. Our attacks leverage seemingly innocent user information that is publicly available in online social networks to infer missing attributes of targeted users. Given the increasing availability of (seemingly innocent) user information online, our results have serious implications for Internet privacy—private attributes can be inferred from users’ publicly available data unless we take steps to protect users from such inference attacks. To infer attributes of a targeted user, existing inference attacks leverage either the user’s publicly available social friends or the user’s behavioral records (e.g., the web pages that the user has liked on Facebook, the apps that the user has reviewed on Google Play), but not both. As we will show, such inference attacks achieve limited success rates. However, the problem becomes qualitatively different if we consider both social friends and behavioral records. To address this challenge, we develop a novel model to integrate social friends and behavioral records, and design new attacks based on our model. We theoretically and experimentally demonstrate the effectiveness of our attacks. For instance, we observe that, in a real-world large-scale dataset with 1.1 million users, our attack can correctly infer the cities a user lived in for 57% of the users; via confidence estimation , we are able to increase the attack success rate to over 90% if the attacker selectively attacks half of the users. Moreover, we show that our attack can correctly infer attributes for significantly more users than previous attacks.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gong, NZ; Liu, B

Published Date

  • January 6, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 21 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 1 - 30

Published By

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2471-2574

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2471-2566

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1145/3154793


  • en