Paper 2018/1001

Illuminating the Dark or how to recover what should not be seen in FE-based classifiers

Sergiu Carpov, Caroline Fontaine, Damien Ligier, and Renaud Sirdey


Classification algorithms and tools become more and more powerful and pervasive. Yet, for some use cases, it is necessary to be able to protect data privacy while benefiting from the functionalities they provide. Among the tools that may be used to ensure such privacy, we are focusing in this paper on functional encryption. These relatively new cryptographic primitives enable the evaluation of functions over encrypted inputs, outputting cleartext results. Theoretically, this property makes them well-suited to the process of classification over encrypted data. Indeed, its design enables one to perform the classification algorithm over encrypted inputs (i.e. without knowing the inputs) while only getting the input classes as a result in the clear. In this paper, we study the security and privacy issues of classifiers using today practical functional encryption schemes. We provide an analysis of the information leakage about the input data that are processed in the encrypted domain with state-of-the-art functional encryption schemes. This study, based on experiments ran on two datasets (MNIST and Census Income), shows that neural networks are able to partially recover information that should have been kept secret. Hence, great care should be taken when using the currently available functional encryption schemes to build (seemingly) privacy-preserving classification services. It should be emphasized that this work does not attack the cryptographic security of functional encryption schemes, it rather warns the community against the fact that they should be used with caution for some use cases and that the current state-of-the-art may lead to some operational weaknesses that could be mitigated in the future once more powerful functional encryption schemes are available.

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Publication info
Preprint. MINOR revision.
functional encryptioninformation leakageprivacy-preserving classification
Contact author(s)
sergiu carpov @ cea fr
renaud sirdey @ cea fr
caroline fontaine @ lsv fr
damien ligier @ gmail com
2019-06-25: last of 4 revisions
2018-10-22: received
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      author = {Sergiu Carpov and Caroline Fontaine and Damien Ligier and Renaud Sirdey},
      title = {Illuminating the Dark or how to recover what should not be seen in {FE}-based classifiers},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/1001},
      year = {2018},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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