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Collecting Digital User Data Without Invading Privacy

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The new Privada system enables the aggregation of statistics about digital user data without undermining the privacy of users.

The new Privada cryptographic method makes it possible to collect data while simultaneously protecting the privacy of the user.

Credit: Oliver Dietze

Saarland University researchers have developed Privada, a cryptographic method that makes it possible to simultaneously collect data and protect the privacy of the user.

The researchers say Privada can resolve the dilemma between the desire for more information and the protection of data, and it also can be easily applied in different domains. "For example, with Privada, website owners are still able to observe that their websites are mainly visited by middle-aged women, but nothing more," says Saarland researcher Aniket Kate.

The system works by having users split up the requested information and send parts of it to previously defined servers performing multiparty computation. Every server assesses its data without being aware of the data of other parties, and together they compute a secret, but are unable to decode it on their own. In addition, each party adds on a value corresponding to a likelihood distribution to make the data slightly imprecise, and the perturbated partial results are assembled into the actual analysis. The perturbation ensures the identity of the individual person is shielded, while trends are still significant in the aggregated statistic about user data.

"The architecture is constructed in such a way that it would not make any difference if someone were to analyze the data of a thousand or a million people," says Saarland researcher Fabienne Eigner.

From Saarland University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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