Regular Paper

The VLDB Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 541-566

First online:

Privacy in geo-social networks: proximity notification with untrusted service providers and curious buddies

  • Sergio MascettiAffiliated withDICo, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • , Dario FreniAffiliated withDICo, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • , Claudio BettiniAffiliated withDICo, Università degli Studi di Milano
  • , X. Sean WangAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Vermont Email author 
  • , Sushil JajodiaAffiliated withCSIS, George Mason University

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A major feature of the emerging geo-social networks is the ability to notify a user when any of his friends (also called buddies) happens to be geographically in proximity. This proximity service is usually offered by the network itself or by a third party service provider (SP) using location data acquired from the users. This paper provides a rigorous theoretical and experimental analysis of the existing solutions for the location privacy problem in proximity services. This is a serious problem for users who do not trust the SP to handle their location data and would only like to release their location information in a generalized form to participating buddies. The paper presents two new protocols providing complete privacy with respect to the SP and controllable privacy with respect to the buddies. The analytical and experimental analysis of the protocols takes into account privacy, service precision, and computation and communication costs, showing the superiority of the new protocols compared to those appeared in the literature to date. The proposed protocols have also been tested in a full system implementation of the proximity service.


Proximity services Geo-social networks Location-based services Location privacy