CMSC 818J: Privacy Enhancing Technologies:
From Theory to Practice

Elaine Shi
CSI 2120
Lecture Times
TuTh 12:30pm-1:45pm

Course Description

    Huge volumes of data containing sensitive/private information are being collected and stored by websites, sensors/monitoring systems, auditing systems, and so on. Examples include electronic records in health care systems and location information in ubiquitous computing applications. How can we protect users' privacy and at the same time enable effective sharing and utilization of the distributed data? How can we ensure that cloud services do not misuse users' data or violate privacy policies? And how can we provide desirable services to users and protect their privacy even when the servers are untrusted?

    The general theme of this course is to explore potential techniques for building new platforms, services, and tools that protect users' privacy. In particular, we emphasize the technical and economic viability, as well as the usability of these privacy technologies. We will study promising component technologies ranging from advances in secure systems research (e.g., trusted computing, virtualization), to theoretic tools like differential privacy and cryptography. Topics intended for discussion include but are not limited to:

    -- Attacks against privacy, including de-anoymization/re-identification attacks, and side-channel attacks
    -- Privacy of user data in the cloud
    -- Privacy of user data on mobile devices
    -- Trusted computing, code attestation and property attestation
    -- Data provenance
    -- Privacy-preserving data mining
    -- Differential privacy, data anonymization and perturbation techniques
    -- Privacy-preserving software systems and applications
    -- Cryptographic techniques for privacy
    -- Programming language techniques for privacy

    The goal of this class is twofold: (1) to arm students with a set of core techniques they can use to address privacy issues in their research areas and application domains, (2) to introduce students to important research questions and prepare them to conduct additional research in these areas.

Course Schedule

Class Format

The class is research oriented. In each class, the instructor will give a lecture and lead discussions based on materials from 1 to 2 selected papers. Then, there will be 1-2 short student presentations on additional reading materials.


Students should prepare to work on a class project. Students should form groups of size 2 to 3 by the end of the 2nd week. The project proposal is due at the end of the 4th week. Students will give project presentations and submit a final project report at the end of the semester.


15% Class participation
15% Reading notes and critique
15% Short presentation
55% Project


The above information is subject to change.