Privacy and Anonymization of Neighborhoods in Multiplex Networks

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Perustieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
Security and Mobile Computing
Degree programme
Master's Degree Programme in Security and Mobile Computing (NordSecMob)
133 + 9
Since the beginning of the digital age, the amount of available data on human behaviour has dramatically increased, along with the risk for the privacy of the represented subjects. Since the analysis of those data can bring advances to science, it is important to share them while preserving the subjects' anonymity. A significant portion of the available information can be modelled as networks, introducing an additional privacy risk related to the structure of the data themselves. For instance, in a social network, people can be uniquely identifiable because of the structure of their neighborhood, formed by the amount of their friends and the connections between them. The neighborhood's structure is the target of an identity disclosure attack on released social network data, called neighborhood attack. To mitigate this threat, algorithms to anonymize networks have been proposed. However, this problem has not been deeply studied on multiplex networks, which combine different social network data into a single representation. The multiplex network representation makes the neighborhood attack setting more complicated, and adds information that an attacker can use to re-identify subjects. This thesis aims to understand how multiplex networks behave in terms of anonymization difficulty and neighborhood attack. We present two definitions of multiplex neighborhoods, and discuss how the fraction of nodes with unique neighborhoods can be affected. Through analysis of network models, we study the variation of the uniqueness of neighborhoods in networks with different structure and characteristics. We show that the uniqueness of neighborhoods has a linear trend depending on the network size and average degree. If the network has a more random structure, the uniqueness decreases significantly when the network size increases. On the other hand, if the local structure is more pronounced, the uniqueness is not strongly influenced by the number of nodes. We also conduct a motif analysis to study the recurring patterns that can make social networks' neighborhoods less unique. Lastly, we propose an algorithm to anonymize a pair of multiplex neighborhoods. This algorithm is the core building block that can be used in a method to prevent neighborhood attacks on multiplex networks.
Kivelä, Mikko
Thesis advisor
Kivelä, Mikko
social network analysis, complex networks, multiplex networks, neighborhoods, anonymization, privacy