Abstracting PROV provenance graphs: A validity-preserving approach

P. Missier, J. Bryans, C. Gamble, V. Curcin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Data provenance is a structured form of metadata designed to record the activities and datasets involved in data production, as well as their dependency relationships. The PROV data model, released by the W3C in 2013, defines a schema and constraints that together provide a structural and semantic foundation for provenance. This enables the interoperable exchange of provenance between data producers and consumers. When the provenance content is sensitive and subject to disclosure restrictions, however, a way of hiding parts of the provenance in a principled way before communicating it to certain parties is required. In this paper we present a provenance abstraction operator that achieves this goal. It maps a graphical representation of a PROV document PG1 to a new abstract version PG2, ensuring that (i) PG2 is a valid PROV graph, and (ii) the dependencies that appear in PG2 are justified by those that appear in PG1. These two properties ensure that further abstraction of abstract PROV graphs is possible. A guiding principle of the work is that of minimum damage: the resultant graph is altered as little as possible, while ensuring that the two properties are maintained. The operator developed is implemented as part of a user tool, described in a separate paper, that lets owners of sensitive provenance information control the abstraction by specifying an abstraction policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-367
Number of pages16
JournalFuture Generation Computer Systems
Early online date15 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Provenance
  • Provenance abstraction
  • Provenance metadata

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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