Jörg Drechsler. 2/2021. “Differential Privacy for Government Agencies – Are We There Yet?”. Publisher's Version
Abstract:Government agencies always need to carefully consider potential risks of disclosure whenever they publish statistics based on their data or give external researchers access to the collected data. For this reason, research on disclosure avoiding techniques has a long tradition at statistical agencies. In this context, the promise of formal privacy guarantees offered by concepts such as differential privacy seem to be the panacea enabling the agencies to exactly quantify and control the privacy loss incurred by any data release. Still, despite the excitement in academia and industry, most agencies-with the prominent exception of the U.S. Census Bureau-have been reluctant to even consider the concept for their data release strategy.
This paper aims to shed some light on potential reasons for this. We argue that the requirements when implementing differential privacy approaches at government agencies are often fundamentally different from the requirements in industry. This raises many challenging problems and open questions that still need to be addressed before the concept might be used as an overarching principle when sharing data with the public. The paper will not offer any solutions to these challenges. Instead, we hope to stimulate some collaborative research efforts, as we believe that many of the problems can only be addressed by inter-disciplinary collaborations.