A privacy-preserving location monitoring system for wireless sensor networks

Chi Yin Chow, Mohamed F Mokbel, Tian He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Monitoring personal locations with a potentially untrusted server poses privacy threats to the monitored individuals. To this end, we propose a privacy-preserving location monitoring system for wireless sensor networks. In our system, we design two innetwork location anonymization algorithms, namely, resource and quality-aware algorithms, that aim to enable the system to provide high-quality location monitoring services for system users, while preserving personal location privacy. Both algorithms rely on the wellestablished k-anonymity privacy concept, that is, a person is indistinguishable among k persons, to enable trusted sensor nodes to provide the aggregate location information of monitored persons for our system. Each aggregate location is in a form of a monitored area A along with the number of monitored persons residing in A, where A contains at least k persons. The resource-aware algorithm aims to minimize communication and computational cost, while the quality-aware algorithm aims to maximize the accuracy of the aggregate locations by minimizing their monitored areas. To utilize the aggregate location information to provide location monitoring services, we use a spatial histogram approach that estimates the distribution of the monitored persons based on the gathered aggregate location information. Then, the estimated distribution is used to provide location monitoring services through answering range queries. We evaluate our system through simulated experiments. The results show that our system provides high-quality location monitoring services for system users and guarantees the location privacy of the monitored persons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-107
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partially supported by US National Science Foundation Grants IIS-0811998, IIS-0811935, CNS-0708604, CNS-0720465, and CNS-0626614, and a Microsoft Research Gift.


  • Aggregate query processing
  • Location monitoring system
  • Location privacy
  • Spatial histogram
  • Wireless sensor networks


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