Estonia’s Sharemind Earns Acclaim in the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Awards

The Sharemind team has been awarded runner-up honour for the 2017 The Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies. Sharemind, a division of Cybernetica, is a modular software suite that allows for multi-party computation with end-to-end encryption.

The team’s study called, “Students and Taxes: A Privacy-Preserving Study Using Secure Computation” focused on using secure multi-party computation to analyse the educational and tax records of Estonian students to determine if employment slowed the graduation rates for students studying Information and Communications Technology curriculums. “The Estonian Tax and Customs Board immediately understood that they, as the organisation ultimately responsible for the safeguarding of citizens' tax data, have now an unprecedented control of what can and what cannot be done with the data,” said Baldur Kubo, project manager.

The Caspar Bowden PET Award is given to researchers who have contributed in the implementation, design, deployment, or theory of privacy enhancing technologies. “We could not be happier! In this project, we had everything - customer pain, technology, legal, economic fit. We built the most complicated secure multi-party computation application ever done and solved a real-world privacy problem for governments and companies,” said co-author and Sharemind creator Dan Bogdanov.

The award-winning case study was produced in coordination with Estonian Centre of Applied Research and utilised statistics from the Estonian Tax and Customs Board and the Ministry of Education and Research. “The support of the Republic of Estonia Information System Authority, Ministry of Education and Research and Data Protection Inspectorate were all paramount in succeeding to prove that full population based analysis can be accomplished without ever decrypting personal data,” Kubo said. The group performed statistical analysis on over 10.6 million records from the two registries.

The award is given annually in memory of Caspar Bowden, long-time data privacy advocate who fought tirelessly to preserve the rights of citizens. The first-place winner of the 2017 award is a group from Princeton and Stanford. The next PET Symposium will take place in Barcelona, Spain in July 2018.