Metadata-conscious anonymous messaging

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Giulia Fanti, Peter Kairouz, Sewoong Oh, Kannan Ramchandran, Pramod Viswanath ;
Proceedings of The 33rd International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 48:108-116, 2016.

Abstract

Anonymous messaging platforms like Whisper and Yik Yak allow users to spread messages over a network (e.g., a social network) without revealing message authorship to other users. The spread of messages on these platforms can be modeled by a diffusion process over a graph. Recent advances in network analysis have revealed that such diffusion processes are vulnerable to author deanonymization by adversaries with access to metadata, such as timing information. In this work, we ask the fundamental question of how to propagate anonymous messages over a graph to make it difficult for adversaries to infer the source. In particular, we study the performance of a message propagation protocol called adaptive diffusion introduced in (Fanti et al., 2015). We prove that when the adversary has access to metadata at a fraction of corrupted graph nodes, adaptive diffusion achieves asymptotically optimal source-hiding and significantly outperforms standard diffusion. We further demonstrate empirically that adaptive diffusion hides the source effectively on real social networks.

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