New Grant: Award Supports Internet Data Privacy Research

Zhou Li

Principal Investigator: Zhou Li, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science

Award: $300,000 over three years

Funding agency: National Science Foundation: Networking Technology and Systems, Secure & Trustworthy Cyberspace

Project: Foundations for Differentially Private Internet Measurement

Internet measurement research provides critical insights and evidence support in guiding the design of internet infrastructures. However, how to share and use internet measurement data while respecting users’ privacy is still challenging. To protect privacy, most researchers choose to anonymize sensitive fields or only publish the aggregated statistics, but such methods are vulnerable to privacy attacks. Differential privacy, which provides guaranteed privacy protection for data release, has gained prominent traction from companies and government agencies and is a natural choice for sharing internet measurement data. However, identifying how differential privacy can be applied to networking problems is still critical. This project aims to understand privacy issues and then lay the foundations for deploying differential privacy in the processing pipeline of internet measurement data.

The project is structured around three main aims. First, conduct a comprehensive study of privacy issues in existing practices in collecting and sharing internet measurement data and develop an inference attack benchmark to assess the privacy risks and benefits of different protection mechanisms. Second, investigates how differential privacy can be adjusted and integrated into the processing pipeline of internet measurement data, by developing new configurable and relaxed differential privacy notions. And third, develop methods to publish synthetic internet measurement data while satisfying differential privacy.

The project's broader significance and importance include transferring the technologies to industry, involving members from underrepresented groups and disseminating outcomes through K-12 outreach and community services.

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