Yeslam Al-Saggaf, Md Zahidul Islam

Privacy in Social Network Sites (SNS): The threats from data mining

This paper explores the potential of data mining as a technique that could be used by malicious data miners to threaten the privacy of SNS users and makes a moral case for the users' right to privacy. It applies a data mining algorithm to a hypothetical dataset of a sample of individuals from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen to show the ease at which characteristics about the SNS users can be discovered and used in a way that could invade their privacy. It is hoped by exploring the threats from data mining on individuals' privacy and arguing for users' right to privacy, the study will raise SNS users' awareness about the ways in which information that they reveal online can be used by malevolent data miners to harm them and how to operate in SNS safely

Keywords: privacy, Social Network Sites (SNS), data mining


  1. Alexa (2011a) The top 500 sites on the web. Available online at, accessed on 21 November 2011
  2. Alexa (2011b) The top 500 sites on the web. Available online at, accessed on 21 November 2011
  3. Al-Saggaf, Y. (2003) Online communities in Saudi Arabia: An ethnographic study, PhD thesis, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia
  4. Al-Saggaf, Y. (2006) The online public sphere in the Arab world: The war in Iraq on the Al Arabiya website, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 12, No. 1. Available online at, accessed on 15 April 2008
  5. Al-Saggaf, Y. (2011) Saudi females on Facebook: An ethnographic study, International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society, Vol. 9, No. 1 pp 1-19
  6. Al-Saggaf, Y. and Weckert, J. (2011) Privacy from a Saudi Arabian perspective, Journal of Information Ethics, Vol. 20, No. 1 pp 34-53
  7. Barnes, S. B. (2001) Online connections: Internet interpersonal relationships, Hampton Press, New Jersey
  8. Bastani, S. (2000) Muslim women on-line, Arab World Geographer, Vol. 3, No 1 pp 40-59
  9. Burmeister, O. K., Weckert, J. and Williamson, K. (2011) Seniors extend understanding of what constitutes universal values, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 9, No. 4. pp 238-252
  10. Boyd, D. M. (2006) Friends, friendsters, and Top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites, First Monday, Vol. 11, No. 12. Available online at, accessed on 12 October 2009
  11. Boyd, D. M. and Ellison, N. B. (2007) Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 13, No. 1. Available online at, accessed on 15 April 2008
  12. Cocking, D. and Matthews, S. (2000) Unreal friends, Ethics and Information Technology, Vol. 2 pp 223-231
  13. Dyson, E. (1998) Release 2.1: A design for living in the digital age, Broadway Books, New York
  14. Emerson, D. (2008) Facebook friends not real friends: judge, Sydney Morning Herald. Available online at, accessed on 6 October 2009
  15. Facebook (2011) Statistics. Available online at, accessed on 21 November 2011
  16. Fule, P. and Roddick, J. F. (2004) Detecting privacy and ethical sensitivity in data mining results. Paper presented to the 27th Australian Computer Science Conference (ACSC2004), Vol. 26 of Conference in Research and Practice in Information Technology, Estivill-Castro, Vladimir (ed.) pp 163-168
  17. Garton, L., Haythornthwaite, C. and Wellman, B. (1997) Studying online social networks, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 3, No. 1. Available online at, accessed on 18 September 2012
  18. Hamman, R. (2001) Computer networks linking network communities, Werry, C. and Mowbray, M. (eds) Online communities: Commerce, community action, and the virtual university, Hewlett-Packard, New Jersey pp 71-95
  19. Hauben, M. and Hauben, R. (1997) Netizens: On the history and impact of usenet and the internet, IEE Computer Society Press, Washington
  20. Haythornthwaite, C. and Wellman, B. (2002) The internet in everyday life: An introduction, The Internet in Everyday Life, Wellman, B. and Haythornthwaite, C. (eds) Blackwell Publishers, Oxford pp 1-55
  21. Horn, S. (1998) Cyberville: Clicks, culture, and the creation of an online town, Warner Books, New York
  22. Huang, D., and Pan, W. (2006) Incorporating biological knowledge into distance-based clustering analysis of microarray gene expression data, Bioinformatics, Vol. 22 pp 1259-1268
  23. Hoy, H.G and Milne, G. 2010. Gender differences in privacy-related measures for young adult Facebook users, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Vol. 10 pp 1525-2019
  24. Internet World Stats (2011) Internet usage in the Middle East. Available online at, accessed on 21 November 2011
  25. Islam, M. Z. (2008) Privacy preservation in data mining through noise addition. PhD thesis in Computer Science, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the University of Newcastle, Australia
  26. Islam, M. Z. (2012) Explore: A Novel Decision Tree Classification Algorithm, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 6121 pp 55-71
  27. Islam, M. Z. and Brankovic, L. (2011) Privacy preserving data mining: A noise addition framework using a novel clustering technique, Knowledge-Based Systems, December, Vol. 24, No. 8 pp 1214-1223
  28. Johnson, D. G. (2001) Computer ethics, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, third edition
  29. Joinson, A. (1998) Causes and implications of disinhibited behaviour on the internet, Psychology and the Internet, Gackenbach, J. (ed.), Academic Press, San Diego pp 43-60
  30. Jones, S. G. (1998) Information, internet, and community: Notes toward an understanding of community in the information age, CyberSociety 2.0: Revisiting Computer-Mediated Communication and Community, Jones, S. G. (ed.), Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA pp 1-35
  31. Jones, S., Millermaier, S., Goya-Marthinez, M. and Schuler, J. (2008) Whose space is MySpace? A content analysis of MySpace profiles, First Monday, Vol. 13, No. 9. Available online at, accessed on 18 September 2012
  32. Karpinski, A. C. and Duberstein, A. (2009) A description of Facebook use and academic performance among undergraduate and graduate students, Technology Research Poster Session. Available online at, accessed on 5 October 2009
  33. Kollock, P. and Smith, M. (1999) Communities in cyberspace, Communities in cyberspace, Smith, M. and Kollock, P. (eds) Routledge, London pp 3-25
  34. Lange, P. G. (2007) Publicly private and privately public: Social networking on YouTube, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 13, No. 1. Available online at, accessed on 17 October 2009
  35. Lung, C.-H., Zaman, M., and Nandi, A. (2004) Applications of clustering techniques to software partitioning, recovery and restructuring, Journal of Systems and Software, Vol. 73, pp 227-244
  36. Mar, J. (2000) Online on time: The language of internet relay chat, Gibbs, D. and Krause, K. L. (eds) Cyberlines: Languages and cultures of the internet, James Nicholas Publishers, Australia pp 151-174
  37. Markham, A. N. (1998) Life online: Researching real experience in virtual space, AltaMira Publications, Walnut Creek, CA
  38. Mitra, A. (1997) Virtual commonality: Looking for India on the internet, Jones, S. G.(ed.) Virtual culture: Identity and communication in cybersociety, Sage Publications, London pp 55-79
  39. Moor, J. (2000) Towards a theory of privacy for the information age, Baird, R. M., Ramsower, R. and Rosenbaum, S. E. (eds) Cyberethics: Moral, social, and legal issues in the computer age, Prometheus Books, New York pp 2000-2012
  40. Moor, J. (2004) Reason, relativity, and responsibility in computer ethics, Spinello, R. and Tavani, H. T. (eds) Readings in cyberethics, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, MA, second edition pp 40-54
  41. Muralidhar, K., Parsa, R., and Sarathy, R. (1999) A general additive data perturbation method for database security, Management Science, Vol. 45, No. 10 pp 1399-1415
  42. Patton, S. (2007) Social Networking Sites: Data Mining and Investigative Techniques. Available online at, accessed on 18 September 2012
  43. Preece, J. (2000) Online communities: Designing useability, supporting sociability, John Wiley and Sons, Chichester
  44. Rafaeli, S. and Sudweeks, F. (1997) Networked interactivity, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 2, No. 4. Available online at, accessed on 18 September 2012
  45. Rheingold, H. (2000) The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier, MIT Press, Cambridge, revised edition
  46. Rifkin, J. (2000) The age of access: How the shift from ownership to access is transforming capitalism, Penguin Books, London
  47. Tamura, T. (2005) Japanese feeling for privacy. Proceedings of the 2nd Asia Pacific Computing and Philosophy Conference, Hongladarom, S. (ed.) Novotel Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand, January pp 88-93
  48. Tavani, H. T. (2011) Ethics and technology: controversies, questions, and strategies for ethical computing, Hoboken, N. J., John Wiley, third edition
  49. Tsai, C. Y., and Chiu, C. C. (2004) A purchase-based market segmentation methodology, Expert Systems with Applications, Vol. 27 pp 265-276
  50. Valenzuela, S., Park, N. and Kee, K. F. (2009) Is there social capital in a social network site? Facebook use and college students' life satisfaction, trust, and participation, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 14 pp 875-901
  51. Wallace, P. (1999) The psychology of the internet, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
  52. Weckert, J. (2003) On-line trust, The impact of the internet on our moral lives, Cavalier, R. (ed.) Suny Press, Albany, NY pp 95-117
  53. Weckert, J. and Adeney, D. (1997) Computer and information ethics, Westport, Connecticut/London, Greenwood Press
  54. Wellman, B. and Gulia, M. (1999) Net-surfers don't ride alone: Virtual communities as communities, Wellman, B. (ed.) Networks in the global village: Life in contemporary communities, Westview, Colorado pp 331-366
  55. Young, Y. (2009) Online social networking: An Australian perspective, International Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society, Vol. 7, No. 1 pp 39-57
  56. Zamir, O., and Etzioni, O. (1999) Grouper: a dynamic clustering interface to Web search results, Computer Networks: The International Journal of Computer and Telecommunications Networking, Vol. 31 pp 1361 - 1374
  57. Zhao, P. and Zhang, C. Q. (2011) A new clustering method and its application in social networks, Pattern Recognition Letters, Vol. 32 pp 2109 - 2118

Note on the contributor

Yeslam Al-Saggaf is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) and a Senior Lecturer in Information Technology at the School of Computing and Mathematics, Charles Sturt University. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Engineering (with honours) in Computer and Information Engineering, from Malaysia, and a Master's in Information Technology and a PhD from Charles Sturt University, Australia. His research interests lie in the areas of privacy in social media and ICT ethics. He has published in those areas in a number of international refereed journals as well as presenting at a number of international conferences. His current research project focuses on professionalism in the ICT workplace. Contact details: School of Computing and Mathematics, Boorooma Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia. Email:

Md Zahidul Islam is a Research Fellow at the Center for Research in Complex Systems (CRiCS) and Lecturer in Computer Science at the School of Computing and Mathematics, Faculty of Business, Charles Sturt University. He has received his Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology, Bangladesh, Graduate Diploma in information science from the University of New South Wales, Australia and PhD in Computer Science (thesis titled Privacy preservation in data mining through noise addition) from the University of Newcastle, Australia. His main research interests include privacy issues for online communities caused by data mining, privacy preserving data mining, application of data mining techniques, and various data mining algorithms including classification, clustering, missing value imputation, data cleansing and data pre-processing. Email: Web: