Microsoft cracks personalisation without prying

'Bloom filters' add flower to Cookies for personal search without tracking

22 Reg comments Got Tips?

A Microsoft research trio has developed an algorithm capable of eliminating user tracking in web search without the overheads of existing technology.

The idea, to be presented next month and titled Bloom Cookies: Web Search Personalisation without User Tracking, uses a new type of flowery cookies that can tightly-encode user profiles to preserve privacy without cutting off online personalisation services.

"The Bloom Cookies design is inspired by our analysis of a large set of web search logs that shows drawbacks of two profile obfuscation techniques, namely profile generalisation and noise injection, today used by many privacy-preserving personalization systems," the trio wrote in an abstract explaining the work.

"We find that profile generalisation significantly hurts personalization and fails to protect users from a server linking user sessions over time.

"Noise injection can address these problems, but only at the cost of a high communication overhead and a noise dictionary generated by a trusted third party."

Bloom Cookies, said Nitesh Mor and John Kubiatowicz of the University of California, and Oriana Riva and Suman Nath of Microsoft Research, would use Bloom filters to score a better tradeoff between privacy, personalisation, and network efficiency.

The filters are space-efficient structures used to confirm elements as parts of a set in a way that eliminates false negatives.

"They provide similar or better personalisation and privacy than noise injection and profile generalisation, but with an order of magnitude lower communication cost and no noise dictionary," they said.

It is unclear just how this approach sits alongside Bing and its tracking features.

Noise injection as a means to enhance search privacy protection has been proposed multiple times, with the first theoretical analysis on its effectiveness done in 2009.

Microsoft's work builds on this line of inquiry and will be published at the NDSS Symposium in San Diego would detail an algorithm capable of tweaking noise within Bloom Cookies according to a user's personalisation preferences. ®

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR WEEKLY TECH NEWSLETTER


Keep Reading

Apple: Yeah, about those ground-breaking privacy features in iOS 14 – don't expect them until next year

'Fundamental right to privacy' can wait – Facebook and others are annoyed

Not one to be outdone by Microsoft, Apple's cloud fell over too. Unlike Microsoft, it hasn't said what happened

Apple TV, iCloud Mail, iWork for iCloud, App Store and more go TITSUP*

Apple: We respect your privacy so much we've revealed a little about what we can track when you use Maps

But we've only done it to help governments understand that virus thing you may have heard about lately

After six months of stonewalling by Apple, app dev goes public with macOS privacy protection bypass

So much for preventing malicious software from peeking at sensitive files

Apple and Google tweak key bits of contact-tracing privacy plan

As European nations back decentralised plan that leaves data on the device until users call in sick

Apple: We're defending your privacy by nixing 16 browser APIs. Rivals: You mean defending your bottom line

iGiant accused of holding back web progress to protect its 30% app cut

Leaked benchmarks from developer kit for Apple's home-baked silicon appear to give Microsoft a run for its money

Before you get too excited 1) They're benchmarks 2) New consumer Arm-based Macs might use something else

Apple, Google begin to spread pro-privacy, batt-friendly coronavirus contact-tracing API for phone apps

Analysis Public health agencies get green light to emit software using joint-developed tech

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020