Spy vs. Spy: Rumor source obfuscation

Giulia Fanti, Peter Kairouz, Sewoong Oh, Pramod Viswanath

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Anonymous messaging platforms, such as Secret, Yik Yak, and Whisper, have emerged as important social media for sharing one's thoughts without the fear of being judged by friends, family, or the public. Further, such anonymous platforms are crucial in nations with authoritarian governments; the right to free expression and sometimes the personal safety of the author of the message depend on anonymity. Whether for fear of judgment or personal endangerment, it is crucial to keep anonymous the identity of the user who initially posted a sensitive message. In this paper, we consider an adversary who observes a snapshot of the spread of a message at a certain time. Recent advances in rumor source detection shows that the existing messaging protocols are vulnerable against such an adversary. We introduce a novel messaging protocol, which we call adaptive diffusion, and show that it spreads the messages fast and achieves a perfect obfuscation of the source when the underlying contact network is an infinite regular tree: all users with the message are nearly equally likely to have been the origin of the message. Experiments on a sampled Facebook network show that it effectively hides the location of the source even when the graph is finite, irregular and has cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-284
Number of pages14
JournalPerformance Evaluation Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 24 2015
Externally publishedYes
EventACM SIGMETRICS International Conference on Measurement and Modeling of Computer Systems, SIGMETRICS 2015 - Portland, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2015Jun 19 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • Anonymous social media
  • Privacy
  • Rumor spreading


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