As a prime target of the quality of privacy in vehicular ad hoc networks (VANETs), location privacy is imperative for VANETs to fully flourish. Although frequent pseudonym changing provides a promising solution for location privacy in VANETs, if the pseudonyms are changed in an improper time or location, such a solution may become invalid. To cope with the issue, in this paper, we present an effective pseudonym changing at social spots (PCS) strategy to achieve the provable location privacy. In particular, we first introduce the social spots where several vehicles may gather, e.g., a road intersection when the traffic light turns red or a free parking lot near a shopping mall. By taking the anonymity set size as the location privacy metric, we then develop two anonymity set analytic models to quantitatively investigate the location privacy that is achieved by the PCS strategy. In addition, we use game-theoretic techniques to prove the feasibility of the PCS strategy in practice. Extensive performance evaluations are conducted to demonstrate that better location privacy can be achieved when a vehicle changes its pseudonyms at some highly social spots and that the proposed PCS strategy can assist vehicles to intelligently change their pseudonyms at the right moment and place.

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