The VLDB Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 777–796 | Cite as

Privacy policies for shared content in social network sites

  • Anna C. Squicciarini
  • Mohamed Shehab
  • Joshua Wede
Special Issue Paper


Social networking is one of the major technological phenomena of the Web 2.0, with hundreds of millions of subscribed users. Social networks enable a form of self-expression for users and help them to socialize and share content with other users. In spite of the fact that content sharing represents one of the prominent features of existing Social network sites, they do not provide any mechanisms for collective management of privacy settings for shared content. In this paper, using game theory, we model the problem of collective enforcement of privacy policies on shared data. In particular, we propose a solution that offers automated ways to share images based on an extended notion of content ownership. Building upon the Clarke-Tax mechanism, we describe a simple mechanism that promotes truthfulness and that rewards users who promote co-ownership. Our approach enables social network users to compose friendship based policies based on distances from an agreed upon central user selected using several social networks metrics. We integrate our design with inference techniques that free the users from the burden of manually selecting privacy preferences for each picture. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time such a privacy protection mechanism for social networking has been proposed. We also extend our mechanism so as to support collective enforcement across multiple social network sites. In the paper, we also show a proof-of-concept application, which we implemented in the context of Facebook, one of today’s most popular social networks. Through our implementation, we show the feasibility of such approach and show that it can be implemented with a minimal increase in overhead to end-users. We complete our analysis by conducting a user study to investigate users’ understanding of co-ownership, usefulness and understanding of our approach. Users responded favorably to the approach, indicating a general understanding of co-ownership and the auction, and found the approach to be both useful and fair.


Social networks Privacy Game theory Clarke-Tax 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna C. Squicciarini
    • 1
  • Mohamed Shehab
    • 2
  • Joshua Wede
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Information Sciences and TechnologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Software and Information SystemsUniversity of North CarolinaCharlotteUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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