Privacy in Online Social Networks

  • Michael Beye
  • Arjan J. P. Jeckmans
  • Zekeriya Erkin
  • Pieter Hartel
  • Reginald L. Lagendijk
  • Qiang Tang


Online social networks (OSNs) have become part of daily life for millions of users. Users building explicit networks that represent their social relationships and often share a wealth of personal information to their own benefit. The potential privacy risks of such behavior are often underestimated or ignored. The problem is exacerbated by lacking experience and awareness in users, as well as poorly designed tools for privacy management on the part of the OSN. Furthermore, the centralized nature of OSNs makes users dependent and puts the service provider in a position of power. Because service providers are not by definition trusted or trustworthy, their practices need to be taken into account when considering privacy risks. This chapter aims to provide insight into privacy in OSNs. First, a classification of different types of OSNs based on their nature and purpose is made. Next, different types of data contained in OSNs are distinguished. The associated privacy risks in relation to both users and service providers are identified, and finally, relevant research areas for privacy-protecting techniques are discussed. Clear mappings are made to reflect typical relations that exist between OSN type, data type, particular privacy risks, and privacy-preserving solutions.


Service Provider Social Networking Site Online Social Network Privacy Issue Instant Messaging 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research for this work was carried out within the Kindred Spirits project, part of the STW Sentinels research program.


  1. 1.
    Anderson, J., Daz, C., Bonneau, J., Stajano, F.: Privacy-enabling social networking over untrusted networks. In: Crowcroft, J., Krishnamurthy, B. (eds.) Proceedings of the WOSN, Barcelona, pp. 1–6. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Anonymous contributor on Cake financial. online, 4 (2010).
  3. 3.
    Anonymous contributor on online, 4 (2010).
  4. 4.
    Anonymous contributor on Social network service. online, 4 (2010).
  5. 5.
    Baatarjav, E.-A., Dantu, R., Phithakkitnukoon, S.: Privacy management for facebook. In: Sekar, R., Pujari, A.K. (eds.) International Conference on Information Systems Security, Hyderabad. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 5352, pp. 273–286. Springer, Berlin (2008)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Backstrom, L., Dwork, C., Kleinberg, J.: Wherefore art thou r3579x?: anonymized social networks, hidden patterns, and structural steganography. In: WWW ’07: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on World Wide Web, Banff, pp. 181–190. ACM, New York (2007)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Banks, L., Wu, S.F.: All friends are not created equal: an interaction intensity based approach to privacy in online social networks. In: IEEE International Conference on Computational Science and Engineering, Vancouver, pp. 970–974 (2009)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Benevenuto, F., Rodrigues, T., Cha, M., Almeida, V.A.F.: Characterizing user behavior in online social networks. In: Feldmann, A., Mathy, L. (eds.) Internet Measurement Conference, Chicago, pp. 49–62. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bonneau, J.: Attack of the zombie photos. online (2009).
  10. 10.
    Boyd, D., Ellison, N.B.: Social network sites: definition, history, and scholarship. J. Comput. Mediat. Commun. 13(1), 210–230 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Buchegger, S., Datta, A.: A case for p2p infrastructure for social networks – opportunities and challenges. In: WONS 2009, 6th International Conference on Wireless On-demand Network Systems and Services, Snowbird, pp. 161–168 (2009)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Buchegger, S., Schiöberg, D., Vu, Le H., Datta, A.: Peerson: P2p social networking: early experiences and insights. In: SNS ’09: Proceedings of the Second ACM EuroSys Workshop on Social Network Systems, pp. 46–52. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Burns, E.: Marketing to social networking sites, targeted. online, 4 (2007).
  14. 14.
    Cardon, D.: Le design de la visibilit : un essai de typologie du web 2.0. online, 2 (2008).
  15. 15.
    Carminati, B., Ferrari, E., Perego, A.: Private relationships in social networks. In: ICDE Workshops, Istanbul, pp. 163–171 (2007)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Cranor, L., Langheinrich, M., Marchiori, M., Presler-Marshall, M., Reagle, J.: The platform for privacy preferences 1.0 (p3p1.0) specification. online (2002).
  17. 17.
    Dube, R., Adomaitis, M.B.P.: What types of social networks exist. online, 3 (2009).
  18. 18.
    Dwork, C.: Differential privacy. In: Automata, Languages and Programming, 33rd International Colloquium, ICALP 2006, Venice, 10–14 July 2006, Proceedings, Part II, pp. 1–12 (2006)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Emmett, D.: Taxonomy of social networks. online, 6 (2009).
  20. 20. Statement of rights and responsibilities. online (2011).
  21. 21.
    Freedman, M.J., Nicolosi, A.: Efficient private techniques for verifying social proximity. In: Proceedings of the 6th International Workshop on Peer-to-Peer Systems (IPTPS07), Bellevue, pp. 1–7 (2007)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gannes, L.: A taxonomy of social networks? online, 2 (2007).
  23. 23.
    Goecks, J., Edwards, W.K., Mynatt, E.D.: Challenges in supporting end-user privacy and security management with social navigation. In: Cranor, L.F. (ed.) Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, Mountain View. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, pages 1–12. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gross, R., Acquisti, A.: Information revelation and privacy in online social networks. In: WPES ’05: Proceedings of the 2005 ACM workshop on Privacy in the electronic society, Alexandria, pp. 71–80. ACM, New York (2005)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Guha, S., Tang, K., Francis, P.: Noyb: privacy in online social networks. In: Proceedings of the First Workshop on Online Social Networks (WOSN), Seattle, pp. 49–54. ACM, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hernandez, N.: President apologizes for questionable photos, 10 (2007).
  27. 27. Types of social networking websites. online, (2010).
  28. 28.
    Jacob, A.: How to hack myspace private profile picture and video. online, 4 (2007).
  29. 29.
    Kang, J.: Information privacy in cyberspace transactions. Stanf. Law Rev. 50(4), 1193–1294 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Leenes, R.: Context Is Everything – Sociality and Privacy in Online Social Network Sites, vol. 320/2010, chapter 4, pp. 48–65. Springer, Boston (2010)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Lipford, H.R., Besmer, A., Watson, J.: Understanding privacy settings in facebook with an audience view. In: UPSEC’08: Proceedings of the 1st Conference on Usability, Psychology, and Security, San Francisco, pp. 1–8. USENIX Association, Berkeley (2008)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Lucas, M.M., Borisov, N.: Flybynight: mitigating the privacy risks of social networking. In: Proceedings of the 7th ACM Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society (WPES), Alexandria, pp. 1–8. ACM, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Lunn, B.: Social network types, motivations, and the future. online, 9 (2007).
  34. 34.
    MacNamara, P.: Facebook blocks ’web 2.0 suicide machine’. online, 1 (2010).
  35. 35.
    Maximilien, E.M., Grandison, T., Liu, K., Sun, T., Richardson, D., Guo, S.: Enabling privacy as a fundamental construct for social networks. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Computational Science and Engineering CSE ’09, Vancouver, vol. 4, pp. 1015–1020, 29–31 Aug 2009Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Mezzour, G., Perrig, A., Gligor, V.D., Papadimitratos, P.: Privacy-preserving relationship path discovery in social networks. In: Garay, J.A., Miyaji, A., Otsuka, A. (eds.) Cryptology and Network Security. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 5888, pp. 189–208. Springer, Berlin/New York (2009)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Olsen, S.: At rapleaf, your personals are public. online, 8 (2007).,-your-personals-are-public/2100-1038_3-6205716.html
  38. 38.
    O’Neill, N.: “anonymous” facebook employee interview: fact vs fiction, 1 (2010).
  39. 39. Types of online social networks. online (2011).
  40. 40.
    Onwuasoanya, A., Skornyakov, M., Post, J.: Enhancing privacy on social networks by segregating different social spheres. Rutgers Gov. Sch. Eng. Technol. Res. J. 3, 1–10 (2008)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Palen, L., Dourish, P.: Unpacking “privacy” for a networked world. In: CHI ’03: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 129–136. ACM, New York (2003)Google Scholar
  42. 42. Social network popularity around the world. online (2008).
  43. 43.
    Riddle, W.: Cyberbullied teen sues ex-classmates, their parents, and facebook, 3 (2009).
  44. 44.
    Rosenblum, D.: What anyone can know: the privacy risks of social networking sites. IEEE Secur. Priv. 5(3), 40–49 (2007)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Shakimov, A., Varshavsky, A., Cox, L.P., Cceres, R.: Privacy, cost, and availability tradeoffs in decentralized osns. In: Crowcroft, J., Krishnamurthy, B. (eds.) Proceedings of the WOSN, Barcelona, pp. 13–18. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Tootoonchian, A., Saroiu, S., Ganjali, Y., Wolman, A.: Lockr: better privacy for social networks. In: CoNEXT ’09: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Emerging Networking Experiments and Technologies, Rome, pp. 169–180. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Tufekci, Z.: Can you see me now? audience and disclosure regulation in online social network sites. Bull. Sci. Technol. Soc. 28(1), 20–36 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Turk, A.: Opinion 5/2009 on online social networking. Technical report 01189/09/EN WP 163, article 29 data protection working party, 6 (2009).
  49. 49.
    UK Parliament. Data protection act 1998, (1998).
  50. 50.
    Viswanath, B., Mislove, A., Cha, M., Gummadi, P.K.: On the evolution of user interaction in facebook. In: Crowcroft, J., Krishnamurthy, B. (eds.) Workshop on Online Social Networks, Barcelona, pp. 37–42. ACM, New York (2009)Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Walters, C.: Facebook’s new terms of service: “we can do anything we want with your content. forever.” 2 (2009). content-forever.html
  52. 52.
    Weiss, S.: The need for a paradigm shift in addressing privacy risks in social networking applications. In: The Future of Identity in the Information Society. IFIP International Federation for Information Processing, vol. 262, pp. 161–171. Springer, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Williams, D.M.: Online identity expert loses control of nsfw r-rated online pics, 3 (2009).
  54. 54.
    Ying, X., Wu, X.: Randomizing social networks: a spectrum preserving approach. In: Proceedings of the SIAM International Conference on Data Mining, Atlanta , pp. 739–750. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Philadelphia (2008)Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Zhou, B., Pei, J., Luk, W.: A brief survey on anonymization techniques for privacy preserving publishing of social network data. Spec. Interest Group Knowl. Discov. Data Min. Explor. 10(2), 12–22 (2008)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Beye
    • 1
  • Arjan J. P. Jeckmans
    • 2
  • Zekeriya Erkin
    • 1
  • Pieter Hartel
    • 2
  • Reginald L. Lagendijk
    • 1
  • Qiang Tang
    • 2
  1. 1.Information Security and Privacy Lab, Faculty of EEMCSDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Distributed and Embedded Security, Faculty of EEMCSUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations