On the anonymity of home, work location pairs


Golle, P.; Partridge, K. On the anonymity of home, work location pairs. Pervasive 2009; 2009 May 11-14; Nara, Japan. Berlin: Springer; 2009; LNCS 5538: 390-397.


Many applications benefit from user location data, but location data raises privacy concerns. Anonymization can protect privacy, but identities can sometimes be inferred from supposedly anonymous data. This paper studies a new attack on the anonymity of location data. We show that if the approximate locations of an individual’s home and workplace can both be deduced from a location trace, then the median size of the individual’s anonymity set in the U.S. working population is 1, 21 and 34,980, for locations known at the granularity of a census block, census track and county respectively. The location data of people who live and work in different regions can be re-identified even more easily. Our results show that the threat of re-identification for location data is much greater when the individual’s home and work locations can both be deduced from the data. To preserve anonymity, we offer guidelines for obfuscating location traces before they are disclosed.

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