Jafar, Student Nab Best Paper Award

Jan. 4, 2017 - For the second time in six months, Professor Syed Jafar and his graduate student Hua Sun have received recognition from IEEE for their work on private information retrieval (PIR), a method of protecting the privacy of users from data providers. Last month, Jafar and Sun won the Communication Theory Symposium Best Paper Award at the IEEE GLOBECOM 2016 conference held in Washington, D.C.

The pair’s paper, “Capacity of Private Information Retrieval,” determines the information theoretic capacity of the PIR problem. The goal of PIR is to allow a user to retrieve a desired message from distributed databases without revealing to any individual database which message is being retrieved.

"PIR is important not only because privacy is important but also due to its fundamental connections to
a number of other interesting problems ranging from oblivious transfer and secure multiparty
computation to batch codes, locally decodable codes and blind interference alignment," explains Jafar, professor of electrical engineering and computer science. "It is an exciting point of convergence for complementary perspectives from theoretical computer science, cryptography, computation, communication, coding and information theory."

GLOBECOM, an IEEE Communication Society conference, attracts nearly 1000 papers across multiple symposia, according to Jafar, who has won two previous GLOBECOM Best Paper awards. The Communication Theory Symposium typically attracts about 150 paper submissions.

Sun and Jafar's prior work on the PIR problem was recognized earlier this year with a 2016 Jack Wolf ISIT Student Best Paper Award at the IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory in Barcelona, Spain.

Anna Lynn Spitzer