Duality Technologies and NumFOCUS Partner to Develop Platform for Privacy-Preserving Analysis
Under the Collaboration, Duality Will Develop a Privacy-Preserving Research Framework Based on the Palisade Open-Source Homomorphic Encryption (He) Library to Enable Academic Institutions and Public Agencies to Share Data and Evaluate the Effects of Grant-Making to Students
Duality Technologies, a leading provider of Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (PETs) enabling collaboration between organizations on sensitive data, announced today a new partnership with NumFOCUS, a non-profit organization that sponsors the use of open-source software in research, data science and scientific computing. The partnership between Duality and NumFOCUS is aimed at creating a privacy-preserving collaboration platform enabling academic institutions and public agencies to evaluate the effects of grant-making, scholarships and other financial support on students’ performance, future occupations and contributions to academic research.
In cooperation with the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) at the University of Michigan, Duality will develop a privacy-preserving data science framework based on the PALISADE open-source Homomorphic Encryption (HE) library in order to carry out secure analysis of sensitive student data while keeping Personally Identifiable Information (PII) private.
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The new framework offers academic institutions and public agencies tools to conduct privacy-preserving research on the impact and the societal benefit of financial support for students. Previously, researchers had not been able to comprehensively analyze relevant data held by different public agencies due to data privacy regulations and agencies’ reluctance to share such sensitive information. Socio-economic data indicative of scholarship recipients’ lifestyles and occupations are inherently sensitive and until now, researchers had to undertake cumbersome anonymization processes with available data, limiting the studies’ scope and reliability.
The development of the framework is also supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which issued a grant to NumFOCUS to promote the development of the open-source software for scientific research based on the PALISADE library.
“We are excited to launch this new collaboration with the remarkable people at NumFOCUS and the University of Michigan’s IRIS research group, one of the leading institutions in its field,” said Dr. Kurt Rohloff, Co-Founder and CTO of Duality Technologies. “Together, we are enabling academic teams to leverage sensitive data held by a variety of public agencies. Highly sensitive personal data must be protected, and now research teams can collaborate with public agencies on such rich data in order to glean important insights without compromising on data privacy.”
The framework utilizes Homomorphic Encryption (HE), an advanced encryption method that protects data during computation, allowing multiple parties to run privacy-preserving analytics on encrypted data. Already deployed and proven in the financial industry, this will enable academic institutions and public agencies for the first time to comprehensively measure the impact of their grant-making and to maximize the impact of such support for students.
“Homomorphic Encryption is a secure and standardized method which is being used more and more frequently to conduct privacy-preserving data analytics in a wide variety of disciplines,” said Leah Silen, Executive Director of NumFOCUS. “The framework under development by Duality represents a real breakthrough in research on social data, and we are proud to make the open-source PALISADE library widely available to the research community. Our heartfelt appreciation to the Sloan Foundation for its grant, which will allow more academic teams to engage in collaborative analytics on such sensitive data.”
The PALISADE open-source HE library, which forms the basis for the new framework, was co-founded by Dr. Kurt Rohloff with Dr. Yuriy Polyakov and Dr. Dave Cousins, both Principal Scientists at Duality Technologies, with initial funding from DARPA and additional sponsorship by NumFOCUS.
“The privacy-preserving framework being developed by Duality will include interfaces and tools that integrate seamlessly with our current research environments,” said Prof. Jason Owen-Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) at the University of Michigan. “It will enable our teams to utilize proven methods while facilitating access to sensitive data, which will translate into greater efficiency and deeper insights, all while preserving individual privacy. This project fits perfectly into our mission to understand, explain and improve the public value of research and higher education.”