Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jun Zhang


This dissertation studies data privacy preservation in collaborative filtering based recommender systems and proposes several collaborative filtering models that aim at preserving user privacy from different perspectives.

The empirical study on multiple classical recommendation algorithms presents the basic idea of the models and explores their performance on real world datasets. The algorithms that are investigated in this study include a popularity based model, an item similarity based model, a singular value decomposition based model, and a bipartite graph model. Top-N recommendations are evaluated to examine the prediction accuracy.

It is apparent that with more customers' preference data, recommender systems can better profile customers' shopping patterns which in turn produces product recommendations with higher accuracy. The precautions should be taken to address the privacy issues that arise during data sharing between two vendors. Study shows that matrix factorization techniques are ideal choices for data privacy preservation by their nature. In this dissertation, singular value decomposition (SVD) and nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) are adopted as the fundamental techniques for collaborative filtering to make privacy-preserving recommendations. The proposed SVD based model utilizes missing value imputation, randomization technique, and the truncated SVD to perturb the raw rating data. The NMF based models, namely iAux-NMF and iCluster-NMF, take into account the auxiliary information of users and items to help missing value imputation and privacy preservation. Additionally, these models support efficient incremental data update as well.

A good number of online vendors allow people to leave their feedback on products. It is considered as users' public preferences. However, due to the connections between users' public and private preferences, if a recommender system fails to distinguish real customers from attackers, the private preferences of real customers can be exposed. This dissertation addresses an attack model in which an attacker holds real customers' partial ratings and tries to obtain their private preferences by cheating recommender systems. To resolve this problem, trustworthiness information is incorporated into NMF based collaborative filtering techniques to detect the attackers and make reasonably different recommendations to the normal users and the attackers. By doing so, users' private preferences can be effectively protected.