Calibrating Noise to Sensitivity in Private Data Analysis

  • Cynthia Dwork
  • Frank McSherry
  • Kobbi Nissim
  • Adam Smith
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 3876)


We continue a line of research initiated in [10,11]on privacy-preserving statistical databases. Consider a trusted server that holds a database of sensitive information. Given a query function f mapping databases to reals, the so-called true answer is the result of applying f to the database. To protect privacy, the true answer is perturbed by the addition of random noise generated according to a carefully chosen distribution, and this response, the true answer plus noise, is returned to the user.

Previous work focused on the case of noisy sums, in which f = ∑ i g(x i ), where x i denotes the ith row of the database and g maps database rows to [0,1]. We extend the study to general functions f, proving that privacy can be preserved by calibrating the standard deviation of the noise according to the sensitivity of the function f. Roughly speaking, this is the amount that any single argument to f can change its output. The new analysis shows that for several particular applications substantially less noise is needed than was previously understood to be the case.

The first step is a very clean characterization of privacy in terms of indistinguishability of transcripts. Additionally, we obtain separation results showing the increased value of interactive sanitization mechanisms over non-interactive.


Laplace Distribution True Answer Query Function Privacy Breach Semantic Security 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia Dwork
    • 1
  • Frank McSherry
    • 1
  • Kobbi Nissim
    • 2
  • Adam Smith
    • 3
  1. 1.Microsoft Research
  2. 2.Ben-Gurion UniversityIsrael
  3. 3.Weizmann Institute of ScienceIsrael

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