On Exploiting Innocuous User Activity for Correlating Accounts Across Social Network Sites

TitleOn Exploiting Innocuous User Activity for Correlating Accounts Across Social Network Sites
Publication TypeTechnical Report
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsGoga, O., Lei H., Parthasarathi S. Hari Krish, Friedland G., Sommer R., & Teixeira R.
Other Numbers3302

This paper studies whether it is possible to identify accounts on different social networks that belong to the same user just by using publicly available information in a user's posts. In particular, we explore three features to capture a user's online activity: the geo?location attached to a user's posts, the timestamp of posts, and the user's writing style as captured by language models. Our analysis, based on correlating user accounts across Yelp, Flickr, and Twitter, shows that such otherwise innocuous features can indeed enable attackers to track users across site boundaries. This result has significant privacy implications as users tend to rely on an implicit notion that social networks remain separate realms. Moreover, current privacy controls remain insufficient to contain the risk of cross?site correlation.


This work was partially supported by funding provided to ICSI through National Science Foundation grant CNS:1065240 (“TC: Medium: Understanding and Managing the Impact of Global Inference on Online Privacy”). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Bibliographic Notes

ICSI Technical Report TR-12-008

Abbreviated Authors

O. Goga, H. Lei, S. H. K. Parthasarathi, G. Friedland, R. Sommer, and R. Teixeira

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security

ICSI Publication Type

Technical Report