The (Co-)Location Sharing Game

Open access


Most popular location-based social networks, such as Facebook and Foursquare, let their (mobile) users post location and co-location (involving other users) information. Such posts bring social benefits to the users who post them but also to their friends who view them. Yet, they also represent a severe threat to the users’ privacy, as co-location information introduces interdependences between users. We propose the first game-theoretic framework for analyzing the strategic behaviors, in terms of information sharing, of users of OSNs. To design parametric utility functions that are representative of the users’ actual preferences, we also conduct a survey of 250 Facebook users and use conjoint analysis to quantify the users’ benefits o f sharing vs. viewing (co)-location information and their preference for privacy vs. benefits. Our survey findings expose the fact that, among the users, there is a large variation, in terms of these preferences. We extensively evaluate our framework through data-driven numerical simulations. We study how users’ individual preferences influence each other’s decisions, we identify several factors that significantly affect these decisions (among which, the mobility data of the users), and we determine situations where dangerous patterns can emerge (e.g., a vicious circle of sharing, or an incentive to over-share) – even when the users share similar preferences.

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