Spatial cloaking for anonymous location-based services in mobile peer-to-peer environments

Chi Yin Chow, Mohamed F. Mokbel, Xuan Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

190 Scopus citations


This paper tackles a privacy breach in current location-based services (LBS) where mobile users have to report their exact location information to an LBS provider in order to obtain their desired services. For example, a user who wants to issue a query asking about her nearest gas station has to report her exact location to an LBS provider. However, many recent research efforts have indicated that revealing private location information to potentially untrusted LBS providers may lead to major privacy breaches. To preserve user location privacy, spatial cloaking is the most commonly used privacy-enhancing technique in LBS. The basic idea of the spatial cloaking technique is to blur a user's exact location into a cloaked area that satisfies the user specified privacy requirements. Unfortunately, existing spatial cloaking algorithms designed for LBS rely on fixed communication infrastructure, e. g., base stations, and centralized/distributed servers. Thus, these algorithms cannot be applied to a mobile peer-to-peer (P2P) environment where mobile users can only communicate with other peers through P2P multi-hop routing without any support of fixed communication infrastructure or servers. In this paper, we propose a spatial cloaking algorithm for mobile P2P environments. As mobile P2P environments have many unique limitations, e.g., user mobility, limited transmission range, multi-hop communication, scarce communication resources, and network partitions, we propose three key features to enhance our algorithm: (1) An information sharing scheme enables mobile users to share their gathered peer location information to reduce communication overhead; (2) A historical location scheme allows mobile users to utilize stale peer location information to overcome the network partition problem; and (3) A cloaked area adjustment scheme guarantees that our spatial cloaking algorithm is free from a "center-of-cloaked-area" privacy attack. Experimental results show that our P2P spatial cloaking algorithm is scalable while guaranteeing the user's location privacy protection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-380
Number of pages30
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers IIS-0811998, IIS-0811935, and CNS-0708604, and by Microsoft Research Gift.


  • Location anonymization
  • Location-based services
  • Mobile peer-to-peer computing
  • Spatial cloaking


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