Location Anonymization
Leveraging Map Data to Preserve Location Privacy



The Privacy Problem









This patented method leverages detailed maps and the commonsense distinction between public and private places to automatically make intuitive privacy-preserving decisions. For example, a busy road is obviously a public location, whereas a tract of homes is intuitively considered more private. In both cases, the map provides the information about the location (boundaries, names, zoning codes, etc), in addition to metadata (points of interest, types of landmarks, etc). Using the location information and metadata, the system can determine the sensitivity of each location datum by simply looking up the attributes to determine whether that location is public or private. Then, private locations can be selectively blurred, with the map data helping to determine how much blurring is needed to preserve privacy without compromising the utility of the data.


Description of the problem

Track13, showing blurring of a residential location

A GoogleEarth snapshot shows an individual's specific path on the public street, but the individual's locations within the residential neighborhood are automatically represented by the single point in the center. Blurring the location within the more private, residential neighborhood helps anonymize the track.


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