A painted sculpted face on a concrete wall

Privacy puzzles

I contributed a database reconstruction attack demonstration to the companion repository to the excellent book Practical Data Privacy by my colleague Katharine Jarmul.

My interest was piqued by my colleague Mitchell Lisle sharing the paper Understanding Database Reconstruction Attacks on Public Data from the US Census Bureau authors Simson Garfinkel, John M. Abowd, and Christian Martindale. Mitchell and I collaborated on a pair of solutions using mathematical optimisation/satisfaction techniques. Check out Mitchell’s solution using the Z3 library. I used OR-Tools instead.

The notebook demonstrates that individual rows of a database may be reconstructed, even if only summary statistics are shared, by considering the constraints that the statistics place on possible values of the data. Constraints include mean and median for all numerical values globally and for various cohorts of records determined by class values.

Note that the intent is of this notebook is not to compromise any private data, but to raise awareness of the potential for privacy breaches due to reconstruction attacks!