Privacy & Stylometry

Practical Attacks Against Authorship Recognition Techniques

Mike Brennan

Authorship recognition based on linguistics (known as Stylometry) has contributed to literary and historical breakthroughs. These successes have led to the use of these techniques in criminal investigations and prosecutions. Stylometry, however, can also be used to infringe upon the privacy of individuals who wish to publish documents anonymously. Our research demonstrates how various types of attacks can reduce the effectiveness of stylometric techniques down to the level of random guessing and worse. These results are made more significant by the fact that the experimental subjects were unfamiliar with stylometric techniques, without specialized knowledge in linguistics, and spent little time on the attacks. This talk will also examine the ways in which authorship recognition can be used to thwart privacy and anonymity and how these attacks can be used to mitigate this threat. It will also cover our current progress in establishing a large corpus of writing samples and attack data and the creation of a tool which can aid authors in preserving their privacy when publishing anonymously.