In the face of increasingly sophisticated threats, organisations that publish statistics based on sensitive datasets need to adopt new methods to protect the privacy of individual data subjects.
That’s why we were excited to be asked to write a chapter for a new report from the UK Office for National Statistics who delivered the report on the behalf of the Government Statistical Service (GSS) looking at new ways to manage privacy risk as the volume and richness of data continue to grow.
Championing differential privacy
Having been asked to comment on the proposal for the GSS report, we recommended what should be covered in a chapter on differential privacy. This new approach offers a mathematical guarantee of the level of individual privacy, allowing organisations to make informed decisions about the trade-off between the privacy and utility of data. After reviewing our suggestions and our proposed outline for the differential privacy content, the GSS asked us to author a chapter of the report.
We’re immensely proud to be the only private company asked to author a chapter of the report. And we were also very pleased to be doing so with one of our academic advisors, Professor Kobbi Nissim, one of the world’s leading privacy researchers – and one of the inventors of differential privacy back in 2006.
Dr Hector Page, one of our research scientists, and Charlie Cabot, our research lead, worked closely with Professor Nissim over several months to co-author the chapter, which provides a detailed look at how government departments can make statistics available for analysis without risking the privacy of individual citizens.
Collaboration is essential
This kind of collaboration between government, academia and industry is essential if organisations are to keep pace with new threats and attack methods. Reconstruction attacks, for example, use aggregate statistics to reconstruct the original datasets from which the aggregates were derived – a method that traditional protection methods simply aren’t equipped to handle.
By collaborating with government agencies and leading academics, we can help operationalise the latest academic thinking on privacy, finding ways to turn advanced research into practical solutions for our customers.
To find out more about how differential privacy can help organisations preserve the privacy and utility of data, read our executive summary of the GSS report.