A data distributor has given sensitive data to a set of supposedly trusted agents (third parties). Some of the data is leaked and found in an unauthorized place (e.g., on the web or somebodyâ€™s laptop). The distributor must assess the likelihood that the leaked data came from one or more agents, as opposed to having been independently gathered by other means. We propose data allocation strategies (across the agents) that improve the probability of identifying leakages. These methods do not rely on alterations of the released data (e.g., watermarks). In some cases we can also inject â€œrealistic but fakeâ€ data records to further improve our chances of detecting leakage and identifying the guilty party.
Traditionally, leakage detection is handled by watermarking, e.g., a unique code is embedded in each distributed copy. If that copy is later discovered in the hands of an unauthorized party, the leaker can be identified. Watermarks can be very useful in some cases, but again, involve some modification of the original data. Furthermore, watermarks can sometimes be destroyed if the data recipient is malicious. E.g. A hospital may give patient records to researchers who will devise new treatments. Similarly, a company may have partnerships with other companies that require sharing customer data. Another enterprise may outsource its data processing, so data must be given to various other companies. We call the owner of the data the distributor and the supposedly trusted third parties the agents.
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