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Inferring Social Relationships from Technology−Level Device Connections

Jason R. C. Nurse‚ Jess Pumphrey‚ Thomas Gibson−Robinson‚ Michael Goldsmith and Sadie Creese


Technology is present in every area of our lives and, for many, life without it has become unthinkable. As a consequence of this dependence and the extent to which technology devices (computers, tablets and smartphones) are being used for work and social activities, a clear coupling between devices and their owners can now be observed. By coupling, we specifically refer to the fact that information present on a person's device, be it user-generated or created by the native OS, can produce great insight into their life. In this paper, we look to exploit this coupling to investigate whether connections between technology devices recorded in system log-files, can be used to make inferences about the social relationships between device owners. A key motivation here is to better understand and elucidate the privacy risks associated with the digital footprints that we as humans (often inadvertently) create. Our work draws upon Social Network Analysis and basic Computer Forensics to develop and achieve the inference goals. From our preliminary experimentation, we demonstrate that human social relationships can indeed be inferred even within our limited initial scope. To further investigate the level of privacy exposure from technology-level links, we outline a more comprehensive plan of experimentation that will be conducted in future work.

Book Title
12th International Conference on Privacy‚ Security and Trust (PST)
40 − 47