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An Annotated Bibliography of Privacy-Violating Attacks and Related Work

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Working Paper Number ced-wp-2023-001


This annotated bibliography is intended to serve as a convenient guide to papers constituting the scientific literature on privacy-violating attacks. Attacks with a modern “reconstruction-reidentification” flavor were the original motivation for collating this bibliography, but its scope has since been expanded to include references to more general kinds of privacy-violating attacks, to papers describing the theoretical foundations of possible attacks, to papers focused on teaching and establishment of standards related to privacy-violating attacks, to papers on the design and implementation of the 2020 Census Disclosure Avoidance System (DAS), the construction of which was motivated in significant part by awareness of the literature for which this bibliography serves as a guide, and, lastly, to papers focused on inference about a target person’s membership in a data set. Papers are divided into five categories, following these descriptions; divisions between categories are not exact, but are meant to roughly capture the overall spirit of each paper.

Note that, in the categories detailing attacks, we also include some papers with primarily negative results (e.g., showing or arguing that certain attack vectors are ineffective against certain classes of database or disclosure protections), though this work is in the minority in each list. However, we do not include papers that are strictly about a particular kind of defense against attacks (e.g., we do not  include papers that study k-anonymous methods, nor papers exclusive to the study of differentially private methods, except in the case of category 4, where we include the small number of papers required to understand the design of the 2020 DAS). In this sense, this bibliography focuses on the kinds of attacks that have been designed, not on the kinds of disclosure-avoidance defenses that researchers have suggested.

This bibliography is unlikely to ever be truly exhaustive, and is a long-term work-in-progress, but we developed it with thorough coverage of the literature as our primary goal.


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