Monday, April 19, 2004

Bloom Filters in Social Networks

Building a Bloom Filter in Perl "One drawback of existing social network schemes is that they require participants to either divulge their list of contacts to a central server (Orkut, Friendster) or publish it to the public Internet (FOAF), in both cases sacrificing a great deal of privacy. By exchanging Bloom filters instead of explicit lists of contacts, users can participate in social networking experiments without having to admit to the world who their friends are. A Bloom filter encoding someone's contact information can be checked to see whether it contains a given name or email address, but it can't be coerced into revealing the full list of keys that were used to build it. It's even possible to turn the false-positive rate, which may not sound like a feature, into a powerful tool."

"If any one of the filters is intercepted, it will register the full 50% false-positive rate. So I am able to hedge my privacy risk across several interactions, and have some control over how accurately other people can see my network. My friends can be sure with a high degree of certainty whether someone is on my contact list, but someone who manages to snag just one or two of my filters will learn almost nothing about me."

"Additionally, you can combine two Bloom filters that have the same length and hash functions with the bitwise OR operator to create a composite filter."
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