'I Don't Have a Photograph, But You Can Have My Footprints' – Revealing the Demographics of Location Data

Proceedings of the Ninth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 2015

Posted: 23 Feb 2016

See all articles by Chris Riederer

Chris Riederer

Columbia University

Sebastian Zimmeck

Wesleyan University

Coralie Phanord

Dartmouth College

Augustin Chaintreau

Columbia University

Steven M. Bellovin

Columbia University - Department of Computer Science

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Location data are routinely available to a plethora of mobile apps and third party web services. The resulting datasets are increasingly available to advertisers for targeting and also requested by governmental agencies for law enforcement purposes. While the re-identification risk of such data has been widely reported, the discriminative power of mobility has received much less attention. In this study we fill this void with an open and reproducible method. We explore how the growing number of geotagged footprints left behind by social network users in photosharing services can give rise to inferring demographic information from mobility patterns. Chiefly among those, we provide the first detailed analysis of ethnic mobility patterns in two metropolitan areas. This analysis allows us to examine questions pertaining to spatial segregation and the extent to which ethnicity can be inferred using only location data. Our results reveal that even a few location records at a coarse grain can be sufficient for simple algorithms to draw an accurate inference. Our method generalizes to other features, such as gender, offering for the first time a general approach to evaluate discriminative risks associated with location-enabled personalization.

Keywords: Location Data; Machine Learning; Privacy; Segregation; Social Networks

Suggested Citation

Riederer, Chris and Zimmeck, Sebastian and Phanord, Coralie and Chaintreau, Augustin and Bellovin, Steven M., 'I Don't Have a Photograph, But You Can Have My Footprints' – Revealing the Demographics of Location Data (2015). Proceedings of the Ninth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2735727

Chris Riederer

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Sebastian Zimmeck (Contact Author)

Wesleyan University ( email )

Middletown, CT 06459
United States

Coralie Phanord

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Augustin Chaintreau

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Steven M. Bellovin

Columbia University - Department of Computer Science ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

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