Preserving location privacy in geosocial applications

Krishna P.N. Puttaswamy, Shiyuan Wang, Troy Steinbauer, Divyakant Agrawal, Amr El Abbadi, Christopher Kruegel, Ben Y. Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Citations (Scopus)


Using geosocial applications, such as FourSquare, millions of people interact with their surroundings through their friends and their recommendations. Without adequate privacy protection, however, these systems can be easily misused, for example, to track users or target them for home invasion. In this paper, we introduce LocX, a novel alternative that provides significantly improved location privacy without adding uncertainty into query results or relying on strong assumptions about server security. Our key insight is to apply secure user-specific, distance-preserving coordinate transformations to all location data shared with the server. The friends of a user share this user's secrets so they can apply the same transformation. This allows all location queries to be evaluated correctly by the server, but our privacy mechanisms guarantee that servers are unable to see or infer the actual location data from the transformed data or from the data access. We show that LocX provides privacy even against a powerful adversary model, and we use prototype measurements to show that it provides privacy with very little performance overhead, making it suitable for today's mobile devices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6365638
Pages (from-to)159-173
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014



  • Efficiency
  • Location privacy
  • Location transformation
  • Location-based social applications
  • Security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Cite this

Puttaswamy, K. P. N., Wang, S., Steinbauer, T., Agrawal, D., El Abbadi, A., Kruegel, C., & Zhao, B. Y. (2014). Preserving location privacy in geosocial applications. IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, 13(1), 159-173. [6365638].