Gradiant, at PETS’14

The 2014 edition of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS) took place between 16 and 18 July in the city of Amsterdam. Gradiant had an active participation at PETS 2014 through our senior researcher Dr. Carmela Troncoso.

The Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium is an international symposium on privacy-preserving technologies. PETS is one of the top conferences in the field of privacy, featuring two days of talks presenting works by renowned researchers in the field. In 2014 the symposium included an invited talk by Martin Ortlieb, Senior User Experience Researcher in Privacy at Google; and a panel on the Implications of the revelations of the NSA and GCHQ Surveillance Programs for the privacy research community. The panelists included important speakers such as Susan Landau, Professor of Cybersecurity Policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and counselor for US government on privacy issues; or Wendy Seltzer, Policy Counsel at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The third day of the symposium is traditionally dedicated to HotPETS, the Workshop on Hot Topics in Privacy Enhancing Technologies. This event allows researchers to present work in progress and demos related to privacy-preserving solutions in a format that allows the audience to provide feedback to the presenters in real time. This year the workshop counted with an invited talk given by William Binney (Former NSA Official). Mr. Binney described in detail some of the surveillance programs carried out by the US National Security Agency, and how the agency worked to keep them secret and influenced US congress to pass laws to protect their operations.

On the second day of the Symposium, Gradiant presented the paper “Do dummies pay off? Limits of dummy traffic protection in anonymous communications”. The authors of the paper are Dr. Troncoso, Prof. Fernando Pérez-Gonzalez, Gradiant’s Executive Director, and Simón Oya, a student from the University of Vigo co-advised by Dr. Troncoso and Prof. Pérez González. The paper analyzes the effectiveness of dummy traffic (fake packets sent through the network) at the time of hiding users’ preferred contacts when interactions happen through an anonymous communication channel. On the third day Dr. Troncoso actively participated in HotPETs being part of the committee that selected the talks presented at the workshop, and chairing the session dedicated to anonymous communications.

The contribution and participation of Dr. Troncoso at PETS 2014 was supported by the project LIFTGATE. Dr Troncoso acts also as Gradiant’s principal researcher in the project PRIPARE (PReparing Industry to Privacy-by-design by supporting its Application in Research), also supported by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme.