Overall Objectives
Application Domains
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Application Domains

Domain 2: Big Data and Privacy

We believe that another important problem will be related to privacy issues in big data. Public datasets are used in a variety of applications spanning from genome and web usage analysis to location-based and recommendation systems. Publishing such datasets is important since they can help us analyzing and understanding interesting patterns. For example, mobility trajectories have become widely collected in recent years and have opened the possibility to improve our understanding of large-scale social networks by investigating how people exchange information, interact, and develop social interactions. With billion of handsets in use worldwide, the quantity of mobility data is gigantic. When aggregated, they can help understand complex processes, such as the spread of viruses, and build better transportation systems. While the benefits provided by these datasets are indisputable, they unfortunately pose a considerable threat to individual privacy. In fact, mobility trajectories might be used by a malicious attacker to discover potential sensitive information about a user, such as his habits, religion or relationships. Because privacy is so important to people, companies and researchers are reluctant to publish datasets by fear of being held responsible for potential privacy breaches. As a result, only very few of them are actually released and available. This limits our ability to analyze such data to derive information that could benefit the general public. It is now an urgent need to develop Privacy-Preserving Data Analytics (PPDA) systems that collect and transform raw data into a version that is immunized against privacy attacks but that still preserves useful information for data analysis. This is one of the objectives of Privatics. There exists two classes of PPDA according to whether the entity that is collecting and anonymizing the data is trusted or not. In the trusted model, that we refer to as Privacy-Preserving Data Publishing (PPDP), individuals trust the publisher to which they disclose their data. In the untrusted model, that we refer to as Privacy-Preserving Data Collection (PPDC), individuals do not trust the data publisher. They may add some noise to their data to protect sensitive information from the data publisher.

Privacy-Preserving Data Publishing: In the trusted model, individuals trust the data publisher and disclose all their data to it. For example, in a medical scenario, patients give their true information to hospitals to receive proper treatment. It is then the responsibility of the data publisher to protect privacy of the individuals' personal data. To prevent potential data leakage, datasets must be sanitized before possible release. Several proposals have been recently proposed to release private data under the Differential Privacy model [25, 56, 26, 57, 50]. However most of these schemes release a “snapshot” of the datasets at a given period of time. This release often consists of histograms. They can, for example, show the distributions of some pathologies (such as cancer, flu, HIV, hepatitis, etc.) in a given population. For many analytics applications, “snapshots” of data are not enough, and sequential data are required. Furthermore, current work focusses on rather simple data structures, such as numerical data. Release of more complex data, such as graphs, are often also very useful. For example, recommendation systems need the sequences of visited websites or bought items. They also need to analyse people connection graphs to identify the best products to recommend. Network trace analytics also rely on sequences of events to detect anomalies or intrusions. Similarly, traffic analytics applications typically need sequences of visited places of each user. In fact, it is often essential for these applications to know that user A moved from position 1 to position 2, or at least to learn the probability of a move from position 1 to position 2. Histograms would typically represent the number of users in position 1 and position 2, but would not provide the number of users that moved from position 1 to position 2. Due to the inherent sequentiality and high-dimensionality of sequential data, one major challenge of applying current data sanitization solutions on sequential data comes from the uniqueness of sequences (e.g., very few sequences are identical). This fact makes existing techniques result in poor utility. Schemes to privately release data with complex data structures, such as sequential, relational and graph data, are required. This is one the goals of Privatics. In our current work, we address this challenge by employing a variable-length n-gram model, which extracts the essential information of a sequential database in terms of a set of variable-length n−grams [15]. We then intend to extend this approach to more complex data structures.

Privacy-Preserving Data Collection: In the untrusted model, individuals do not trust their data publisher. For example, websites commonly use third party web analytics services, such as Google Analytics to obtain aggregate traffic statistics such as most visited pages, visitors' countries, etc. Similarly, other applications, such as smart metering or targeted advertising applications, are also tracking users in order to derive aggregated information about a particular class of users. Unfortunately, to obtain this aggregate information, services need to track users, resulting in a violation of user privacy. One of our goals is to develop Privacy-Preserving Data Collection solutions. We propose to study whether it is possible to provide efficient collection/aggregation solutions without tracking users, i.e. without getting or learning individual contributions.