On Communication Protocols That Compute Almost Privately
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A traditionally desired goal when designing auction mechanisms is incentive compatibility, i.e., ensuring that bidders fare best by truthfully reporting their preferences. A complementary goal, which has, thus far, received significantly less attention, is to preserve privacy, i.e., to ensure that bidders reveal no more information than necessary. We further investigate and generalize the approximate privacy model for two-party communication recently introduced by Feigenbaum et al. . We explore the privacy properties of a natural class of communication protocols that we refer to as “dissection protocols”. Dissection protocols include, among others, the bisection auction in [9,10] and the bisection protocol for the millionaires problem in . Informally, in a dissection protocol the communicating parties are restricted to answering simple questions of the form “Is your input between the values α and β (under a pre-defined order over the possible inputs)?”.
We prove that for a large class of functions called tiling functions, which include the 2nd-price Vickrey auction, there always exists a dissection protocol that provides a constant average-case privacy approximation ratio for uniform or “almost uniform” probability distributions over inputs. To establish this result we present an interesting connection between the approximate privacy framework and basic concepts in computational geometry. We show that such a good privacy approximation ratio for tiling functions does not, in general, exist in the worst case. We also discuss extensions of the basic setup to more than two parties and to non-tiling functions, and provide calculations of privacy approximation ratios for two functions of interest.
KeywordsApproximate Privacy Auctions Communication Protocols
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