Whoville: Anonymous Facebook API

– “Whoville is an Anonymous Facebook API”

When a user adds an application on Facebook that application gain access to a set of information which is in turn associated with their identity. In fact, even if you don’t have an application added, it, or a third-party site running the application can query Facebook for your “PAI” or publicly available information – which happens to include your name and unique Facebook ID. This information exchange and many like are used to interlink personal information between different websites you use like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and CNN. This project explores the question of what the internet, and in particular these highly personalized sites and services that are gaining acceptance, would look like if they never knew who their users were. In a sense, we’re trying to break the addiction to identity.

This project seeks to apply existing anonymity metrics from the research community to real data, Facebook data. Whoville is an application which acts as a pass-through layer to other applications, however all information released by Whoville comes with certain anonymity guarantees. A prototype is currently being tested by researchers to determine if such an approach to anonymity is scalable and produces information that is still useful to applications.

Researchers: Aaron Beach, Richard Han, Joshua Wepman, Kyle Poole

Recent Publications

A. Beach, M. Gartrell, R. Han, “q-Anon: Practical Anonymity for Social Networks,” in the International Journal of Social Computing and Cyber-Physical Systems, to appear in 2011

A. Beach, M. Gartrell and R. Han, “q-Anon: Rethinking Anonymity for Social Networks” in the 2nd International Conference on Social Computing (SocialCom 2010), (pdf | bib)

A. Beach, M. Gartrell, and R. Han, “Social-k: Real-time k-anonymity guarantees for social network applications,” in IEEE International Workshop on SECurity and SOCial Networking (SESOC) at PerCom 2010, (pdf | bib)

A. Beach, M. Gartrell, and R. Han, “Solutions to security and privacy issues in mobile social networking,” in Workshop on the Social Mobile Web 2009, associated with IEEE SocialCom 2009), cse,, vol. 4, 2009, pp. 1036-1042. (pdf | bib)