Privacy Year at BU

The Privacy Year, funded by Penn State, BU’s Hariri Institute, BU’s RISCS, and Harvard’s CRCS, is bringing three top data privacy researchers to BU for AY 2013-14. It will focus on research on data privacy and will include workshops and a seminar series to ensure a wide dissemination of the research results and a dialog between privacy researchers and consumers of privacy technology.

Data privacy issues arise in many domains that deal with sensitive information, ranging from social sciences and economics to government policy and health. The goal of research on this topic is to facilitate collection of sensitive data, its analysis, and sharing of insights, while protecting privacy of individuals and organizations whose data is used. Current research challenges include designing efficient and scalable algorithms for the private analysis of data; refining connections with other fields such as machine learning and game theory to develop broadly applicable methodology; and developing domain-specific techniques for data analysis in medicine and the social and behavioral sciences.

The main focus of the Privacy Year will be collaborations between the three long-term visitors–Kobbi Nissim, Sofya Raskhodnikova and Adam Smith–and BU faculty and graduate students, both on Charles River Campus and on the Medical Campus. The Year’s activities will also include short-term visitors, an ongoing seminar series, and workshops. The first workshop, on practical and legal aspects of privacy in social science research, was joint with Harvard University and took place on September 24-25.

Upcoming Events

Charles River Workshop on Private Analysis of Social Networks

Monday, May 19, 2014
9am – 5pm
Hariri Institute, 111 Cummington Mall, MCS 180, Boston

The Charles River Workshop on Private Analysis of Social Networks will include talks and a discussion session covering different aspects of the challenge of performing and releasing analyses of graph data while protecting personal information. The workshop is intended for researchers in computer science and statistics interested in various aspects of privacy and social networks.

Visiting Faculty


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Sofya Raskhodnikova



Sofya Raskhodnikova is an associate professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. She is on sabbatical at Boston University in 2013-2014 for the special year on privacy. In addition to working on privacy-preserving methods for publishing aggregate statistical data, she focuses on the design and analysis of sublinear-time algorithms for combinatorial problems. Sofya got her PhD from MIT in 2003. From the fall of 2003 to 2006, I worked at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Weizmann Institute of Science and the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics.


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Adam Smith



Adam Smith is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Penn State. His research interests lie in cryptography, privacy and their connections to information theory, quantum computing and statistics. He received his Ph.D. from MIT in 2004 and was subsequently a visiting scholar at the Weizmann Institute of Science and UCLA. In 2009, he received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).


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Kobbi Nissim



Kobbi Nissim is a faculty member at the Department of Computer Science, Ben-Gurion University. His research interests are in foundations of privacy and cryptography, and in particular, formal notions of privacy, differential privacy, privacy-aware mechanism design, private approximations, and secure multiparty computation.