Journal article

Protecting Privacy through Distributed Computation in Multi-agent Decision Making

As large-scale theft of data from corporate servers is becoming increasingly common, it becomes interesting to examine alternatives to the paradigm of centralizing sensitive data into large databases. Instead, one could use cryptography and distributed computation so that sensitive data can be supplied and processed in encrypted form, and only the final result is made known. In this paper, we examine how such a paradigm can be used to implement constraint satisfaction, a technique that can solve a broad class of AI problems such as resource allocation, planning, scheduling, and diagnosis. Most previous work on privacy in constraint satisfaction only attempted to protect specific types of information, in particular the feasibility of particular combinations of decisions. We formalize and extend these restricted notions of privacy by introducing four types of private information, including the feasibility of decisions and the final decisions made, but also the identities of the participants and the topology of the problem. We present distributed algorithms that allow computing solutions to constraint satisfaction problems while maintaining these four types of privacy. We formally prove the privacy properties of these algorithms, and show experiments that compare their respective performance on benchmark problems.

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