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Title: Data-level privacy through data perturbation in distributed multi-application environments
Author: de Souza, Tulio
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 5309
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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Wireless sensor networks used to have a main role as a monitoring tool for environmental purposes and animal tracking. This spectrum of applications, however, has dramatically grown in the past few years. Such evolution means that what used to be application-specific networks are now multi application environments, often with federation capabilities. This shift results in a challenging environment for data privacy, mainly caused by the broadening of the spectrum of data access points and involved entities. This thesis first evaluates existing privacy preserving data aggregation techniques to determine how suitable they are for providing data privacy in this more elaborate environment. Such evaluation led to the design of the set difference attack, which explores the fact that they all rely purely on data aggregation to achieve privacy, which is shown through simulation not to be suitable to the task. It also indicates that some form of uncertainty is required in order to mitigate the attack. Another relevant finding is that the attack can also be effective against standalone networks, by exploring the node availability factor. Uncertainty is achieved via the use of differential privacy, which offers a strong and formal privacy guarantee through data perturbation. In order to make it suitable to work in a wireless sensor network environment, which mainly deals with time-series data, two new approaches to address it have been proposed. These have a contrasting effect when it comes to utility and privacy levels, offering a flexible balance between privacy and data utility for sensed entities and data analysts/consumers. Lastly, this thesis proposes a framework to assist in the design of privacy preserving data aggregation protocols to suit application needs while at the same time complying with desired privacy requirements. The framework's evaluation compares and contrasts several scenarios to demonstrate the level of flexibility and effectiveness that the designed protocols can provide. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that data perturbation can be made significantly practical through the proposed framework. Although some problems remain, with further improvements to data correlation methods and better use of some intrinsic characteristics of such networks, the use of data perturbation may become a practical and efficient privacy preserving mechanism for wireless sensor networks.
Supervisor: Brown, Ian ; Martin, Andrew Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Data aggregation ; Differential Privacy ; Wireless Sensor Networks ; Data privacy