Elastic Pathing: Your Speed is Enough to Track You

Today, people have the opportunity to opt-in to usage-based automotive insurances for reduced premiums by allowing companies to monitor their driving behavior. Several companies claim to measure only speed data to preserve privacy. With our elastic pathing algorithm, we show that drivers can be tracked by merely knowing their home location, as insurance companies know, and speed data with an accuracy that constitutes privacy intrusions. To demonstrate the algorithm’s real-world applicability, we evaluated its performance with datasets from central New Jersey and Seattle, Washington, representing suburban and urban areas. Our algorithm predicted destinations with error within 250 meters for 14% traces and within 500 meters for 24% traces in the New Jersey dataset (254 traces). For the Seattle dataset (691 traces), we similarly predicted destinations with error within 250 and 500 meters for 13% and 26% of the traces respectively. Our work shows that these insurance schemes enable a substantial breach of privacy.

Our paper, "Elastic Pathing: Your Speed is Enough to Track You," received the Best Paper Nominee Award (4% of all papers) at UbiComp'14!

Article: Elastic Pathing: Your Speed is Enough to Track You
Authors: Xianyi Gao, Bernhard Firner, Shridatt Sugrim, Victor Kaiser-Pendergrast, Yulong Yang, and Janne Lindqvist
Demo video on YouTube
Bibtex Reference


Click following links to download our source code and traces.

  • Source Code 
    This is the source code for our Elastic Pathing algorithm, including scripts to download data from the OpenStreetMap (OSM). 
  • New Jersey Traces 
    This package contains a subset of the traces that we collected. All traces in this package are in sq3 files ready for our program. Our New Jersey traces were collected by six volunteers. Traces from four volunteers are included in this package. 
  • Scripts for Extracting Seattle Traces 
    This contains scripts for extracting traces from Seattle dataset. The original GPS traces were collected by John Krumm and A.J. Brush at Microsoft Research (MSR), available through their website. The scripts convert their traces to our required format in sq3 files. 

How to use these files

There are two testing datasets we used for testing:

  • Central New Jersey Dataset (partially available through above links)
  • Seattle Dataset

The source code includes following:

  • Code for Our Elastic Pathing Algorithm
  • Code for Downloading the OSM Data

All source code are documented. Please see the README files within the package for further instructions. Our resources are free to use for non-commercial research or educational purposes. You must not attempt to deanonymize the participants from our dataset. If you publish your results based on our code or dataset, please cite our Elastic Pathing paper in UbiComp 2014.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers 1228777 and 1211079. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.