Differential Privacy

Papers We Love San Diego
Papers We Love San Diego
Public group
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"Differential Privacy", by Cynthia Dwork (2006).

Presented by Mike Mull.


In 1977 Dalenius articulated a desideratum for statistical databases: nothing about an individual should be learnable from the database that cannot be learned without access to the database. We give a general impossibility result showing that a formalization of Dalenius’ goal along the lines of semantic security cannot be achieved. Contrary to intuition, a variant of the result threatens the privacy even of someone not in the database. This state of affairs suggests a new measure, differential privacy, which, intuitively, captures the increased risk to one's privacy incurred by participating in a database. The techniques developed in a sequence of papers [8, 13, 3], culminating in those described in [12], can achieve any desired level of privacy under this measure. In many cases, extremely accurate information about the database can be provided while simultaneously ensuring very high levels of privacy.




Here's a video of Cynthia Dwork herself that serves as a great introduction to the topic of Differential Privacy:


This blog post also introduces the topic well:


and this follow-up goes into more detail if you want it:



The paper is oddly organized. For example, Theorem 1 references Assumption 3, which isn't introduced until two pages later. The title topic isn't formally introduced until Section 4. If you just want to get familiar with the paper before the meet-up my advice would be the following plan:

- Read sections 1 and 2.
- Read the beginning of section 3 to learn some of the terminology
- Skip the remainder of section 3, which is Theorem 1 and its proof. I will cover it in the presentation but it is not essential to the mechanics of differential privacy.
- Read section 4, which introduces the formal definition of differential privacy
- (Extra credit) Read the introduction to section 5, and section 5.1.


Street parking on 6th, 7th & 8th Avenues north of B Street is usually easy at that hour. Meters nearby are free after 6. Read signage before you park on A street.

If you're interested in presenting a paper please fill out this form (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaI-fWdys27-ByT_HdtsJ73V4AxZr0hf1GSqLsQ1IwAaPdIQ/viewform) or talk to us in person at the meetup.