Re-Identification Risk Versus Data Utility for Aggregated Mobility Research Using Mobile Phone Location Data
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    Abstract:

    Mobile phone location data is a newly emerging data source of great potential to support human mobility research. However, recent studies have indicated that many users can be easily re-identified based on their unique activity patterns. Privacy protection procedures will usually change the original data and cause a loss of data utility for analysis purposes. Therefore, the need for detailed data for activity analysis while avoiding potential privacy risks presents a challenge. The aim of this study is to reveal the re-identification risks from a Chinese city’s mobile users and to examine the quantitative relationship between re-identification risk and data utility for an aggregated mobility analysis. The first step was to evaluate the re-identification risks in Shenzhen City, a metropolis in China. A spatial generalization approach to protecting privacy was then proposed and implemented, and spatially aggregated analysis was used to assess the loss of data utility after privacy protection. The results demonstrate that the re-identification risks in Shenzhen City are clearly different from those in regions reported in Western countries, which prove the spatial heterogeneity of reidentification risks in mobile phone location data. A uniform mathematical relationship has also been found between re-identification risk (x) and data utility (y) for both attack models: y=-axb+c(a, b, c>0; 0<x<1). The discovered mathematical relationship provides data publishers with useful guidance on choosing the right tradeoff between privacy and utility. Overall, this study contributes to a better understanding of reidentification risks and a privacy-utility tradeoff benchmark for improving privacy protection when sharing detailed trajectory data.

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YIN Ling, HU Jinxing, WANG Qian, WANG Wei, CAI Zhiling. Re-Identification Risk Versus Data Utility for Aggregated Mobility Research Using Mobile Phone Location Data[J]. Journal of Integration Technology,2016,5(2):19-28

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  • Received:
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  • Adopted:
  • Online: April 01,2016
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