Proceedings from the 2017 Cornell-Census- NSF-Sloan Workshop on Practical Privacy

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These proceedings report on a workshop hosted at the U.S. Census Bureau on May 8, 2017. Our purpose was to gather experts from various backgrounds together to continue discussing the development of formal privacy systems for Census Bureau data products. This workshop was a successor to a previous workshop held in October 2016 (Vilhuber & Schmutte 2017). At our prior workshop, we hosted computer scientists, survey statisticians, and economists, all of whom were experts in data privacy. At that time we discussed the practical implementation of cutting-edge methods for publishing data with formal, provable privacy guarantees, with a focus on applications to Census Bureau data products. The teams developing those applications were just starting out when our first workshop took place, and we spent our time brainstorming solutions to the various problems researchers were encountering, or anticipated encountering. For these cutting-edge formal privacy models, there had been very little effort in the academic literature to apply those methods in real-world settings with large, messy data. We therefore brought together an expanded group of specialists from academia and government who could shed light on technical challenges, subject matter challenges and address how data users might react to changes in data availability and publishing standards. In May 2017, we organized a follow-up workshop, which these proceedings report on. We reviewed progress made in four different areas. The four topics discussed as part of the workshop were 1. the 2020 Decennial Census; 2. the American Community Survey (ACS); 3. the 2017 Economic Census; 4. measuring the demand for privacy and for data quality. As in our earlier workshop, our goals were to 1. Discuss the specific challenges that have arisen in ongoing efforts to apply formal privacy models to Census data products by drawing together expertise of academic and governmental researchers; 2. Produce short written memos that summarize concrete suggestions for practical applications to specific Census Bureau priority areas.
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Funding for the workshop was provided by the National Science Foundation (CNS-1012593) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Organizational support was provided by the Research and Methodology Directorate at the U.S. Census Bureau and the Labor Dynamics Institute at Cornell University.
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