Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

FIPR-Bulletin: Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy

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FIPR does not usually republish Microsoft's Press Releases, but this one is interesting for a number of reasons:

* it shows that Microsoft is starting to pay some real attention to privacy issues (by putting money into awards and sponsoring research conferences in this field);

* it illustrates one of the things that Caspar Bowden, the first Director of FIPR, is getting up to in his new job;

* and, not least, it gives FIPR the chance to congratulate Andrei and George ( who was one of the first to become a "Friend of FIPR" ) upon their achievement.

Microsoft's release does not go deeply into what the academic paper was actually about, and why it is worthy of an award.... the nomination text is rather technical, so that may be why :-)

This paper marks the beginning of a new era in the measurement and analysis of anonymity. The most popular previous metric of anonymity was the anonymity set. The authors nicely show many of the limitations of that approach and then go on to define anonymity in terms of the information theoretic notion of entropy. This approach takes probabilities into account.

Various other papers have also attempted to account for probabilities in defining anonymity. However, none of them has the generality of this approach. The definitions of degree of anonymity set out by Reiter and Rubin, Diaz et al., and others have some appeal, most notably in lending themselves to a normalized metric; however, the model in the former is less general and the normalization in the latter more ad hoc than the work in this paper.

This paper also illustrates the applicability of its ideas by using them to do a novel comparison of the anonymity of different types of mixes as well as showing the affects of route length parameters on anonymity of fielded systems.

The approach of this paper has already influenced successive theoretical work. I believe this will be seen in the future as the seminal paper for what will become the dominant theoretical approach to anonymity in years to come. However, beyond its theoretical significance, as the approach is further explored and developed, I believe that an analysis based on ideas set out in this paper will be one of the distinctions between those implemented systems for anonymous communication that have been adequately evaluated to be trusted and those that have not.

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Microsoft Press Release =======================

PET2003 and Microsoft Announce Annual Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technology

First recipients win award for paper on the measurement and analysis of anonymity

Dresden, Germany - Mar. 27, 2003 - The Privacy Enhancing Technologies Workshop (PET2003) and Microsoft has announced the creation of the Privacy Enhancing Technology research award that will be presented annually to researchers who have made an outstanding contribution to the theory, design, implementation, or deployment of privacy enhancing technology.

The first winners of the award, announced yesterday at PET2003 in Dresden, are Andrei Serjantov and George Danezis for their work on the measurement and analysis of anonymity. Their work was selected from a number of nominated papers by the PET2003 award committee made up of leading academics and researchers in this field.

"The aim of the PET award is to raise awareness of new research and technologies that aim to protect end users from profiling and secure their personal data," said Caspar Bowden, Senior Privacy Strategist of Microsoft EMEA. "We hope that our sponsorship of this award will stimulate and encourage the important research being done in this field. As we continue to address privacy concerns and improve the design processes of our products, we are committed to actively engaging with leading academic and research groups to share best practice and develop appropriate solutions.

The award winning paper by Andrei Serjantov and George Danezis was entitled "Towards an Information Theoretic Metric for Anonymity" and can be found at PDF: Postscript:

About PET Workshop

The PET Workshop is a yearly conference that brings together anonymity and privacy experts from around the world to discuss recent advances and new perspectives in the design and realization of privacy and anticensorship services for the Internet and other communication networks.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software - any time, any place and on any device. This year, Microsoft celebrates the 20th anniversary of its operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Microsoft and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

Notes to Editors ================

Andrei Serjantov is a final year research student in the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory under the direction of Dr Peter Sewell. He is a member of the Security group and Theory and Semantics group. His current research interests include design and analysis of anonymity systems, peer to peer systems, and privacy enhancing technologies in general. Previously, he has worked on semantics of network protocols and functional programming languages.

Andrei is a program committee member of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) Workshop 2003 and a member of the PETs advisory board.

Andrei graduated in Computer Science from Cambridge University in 1999 and held the Henry Fellowship to Yale University in 2000. He is a scholar of Queens' College, member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, and the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club.

Apart from his academic activities, Andrei enjoys rock climbing, travelling, badminton and ballroom dancing.

George Danezis is a research student in the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory. He is a member of the Security Group and his Ph.D. is being supervised by Dr Ross Anderson. His research interests focus on the design of robust anonymous communications networks and protocols but he also works on information hiding and other surveillance related technologies.

Besides studying the technical aspects of surveillance George has also participated in conferences and forums about the policy surrounding it. He has written reports, trained and consulted for NGOs and other groups about using technology safely.

George graduated in Computer Science from Cambridge University in 2000. He is a scholar of Queens' College, and his research is partly funded by the Cambridge University European Trust.

In his free time George enjoys practising photography and Martial Arts.

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