Differential Privacy — A Balancing Act


Data privacy is an ever important aspect of data analyses. Historically, a plethora of privacy techniques have been introduced to protect data, but few have stood the test of time. From investigating the overlap between big data research, and security and privacy research, I have found that differential privacy presents itself as a promising defender of data privacy.

Differential privacy is a rigorous, mathematical notion of privacy. Nevertheless, privacy comes at a cost. In order to achieve differential privacy, we need to introduce some form of inaccuracy (i.e. error) to our analyses. Hence, practitioners need to engage in a balancing act between accuracy and privacy when adopting differential privacy. As a consequence, understanding this accuracy/privacy trade-off is vital to being able to use differential privacy in real data analyses.

In this thesis, I aim to bridge the gap between differential privacy in theory, and differential privacy in practice. Most notably, I aim to convey a better understanding of the accuracy/privacy trade-off, by 1) implementing tools to tweak accuracy/privacy in a real use case, 2) presenting a methodology for empirically predicting error, and 3) systematizing and analyzing known accuracy improvement techniques for differentially private algorithms. Additionally, I also put differential privacy into context by investigating how it can be applied in the automotive domain. Using the automotive domain as an example, I introduce the main challenges that constitutes the balancing act, and provide advice for moving forward.

Jun 18, 2021 2:00 PM

More details about the thesis: https://research.chalmers.se/en/publication/523824

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