Past Event

EE Seminar: System Designs for End-to-End Privacy

March 23, 2022
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
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Abstract: The potential of data to transform science and society has spurred unparalleled efforts to collect it in increasingly sensitive and granular forms. This accumulation of sensitive data did not materialize without issues and has raised severe societal concerns. These concerns appear amply justified by numerous reports of data breaches and misuse. Today, we are at an inflection point: if we want to continue enjoying the benefits of data-driven services, we need to place privacy at the center of our data ecosystems, which have evolved and matured without much consideration of privacy. However, this is a difficult challenge to solve because of the enormous scales and complex performance requirements of these systems.

This talk outlines my work building practical systems that enable applications to securely interact with users' data while preserving individuals' privacy. First, I'll discuss Zeph, a new end-to-end privacy system that provides the means to extract value from encrypted data safely while ensuring data confidentiality and privacy by serving only privacy-compliant views of the data. Then, I'll talk about how we can bring the power of secure computation to difficult and constrained settings, such as time-series workloads. Here I will present TimeCrypt, an encrypted time-series database design that meets the scalability and low-latency requirements associated with time-series workloads. Throughout the talk, I will discuss the prevalent challenges of efficiency, functionality, and accessibility in this research area; my approach to addressing these challenges; and future directions that will help bring end-to-end privacy to a broader range of applications.

Bio: Anwar Hithnawi is an Ambizione research fellow at ETH Zurich, where she leads the Privacy-Preserving Systems Lab ( She works at the intersection of systems, data privacy, and applied cryptography. Anwar received her doctoral degree in computer science from ETH Zurich. Prior to joining ETH Zurich as a research fellow in 2020, she was a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley. She is the recipient of an SNSF Ambizione grant, the Facebook Research Award, an SNSF Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship.