Paper 2004/130

Private Inference Control

David Woodruff and Jessica Staddon


Access control can be used to ensure that database queries pertaining to sensitive information are not answered. This is not enough to prevent users from learning sensitive information though, because users can combine non-sensitive information to discover something sensitive. Inference control prevents users from obtaining sensitive information via such ``inference channels'', however, existing inference control techniques are not private - that is, they require the server to learn what queries the user is making in order to deny inference-enabling queries. We propose a new primitive - private inference control (PIC) - which is a means for the server to provide inference control without learning what information is being retrieved. PIC is a generalization of private information retrieval (PIR) and symmetrically-private information retrieval (SPIR). While it is straightforward to implement access control using PIR (simply omit sensitive information from the database), it is nontrivial to implement inference control efficiently. We measure the efficiency of a PIC protocol in terms of its communication complexity, its round complexity, and the work the server performs per query. Under existing cryptographic assumptions, we give a PIC scheme which is simultaneously optimal, up to logarithmic factors, in the work the server performs per query, the total communication complexity, and the number of rounds of interaction. We also present a scheme requiring more communication but sufficient storage of state by the server to facilitate private user revocation. Finally, we present a generic reduction which shows that one can focus on designing PIC schemes for which the inference channels take a particularly simple threshold form.

Available format(s)
Publication info
Published elsewhere. Unknown where it was published
Private Information RetrievalOblivious TransferInference Control
Contact author(s)
dpwood @ mit edu
2004-06-03: received
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Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {David Woodruff and Jessica Staddon},
      title = {Private Inference Control},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2004/130},
      year = {2004},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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