CSCI 5520: Data Privacy

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Spring 2015

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Course Description

In this course we will study the privacy loss that occurs when public information is released from databases that contain sensitive information about individuals. We will start with mathematical definitions of database privacy, study the privacy guarantees of various mechanisms for publishing data and show their statistical and computational limitations. Time permitting, we will explore connections to other areas like mechanism design, cryptography, and statistical learning.


This is a tentative (and somewhat ambitious) schedule. Changes are possible depending on progress and interest.

date topic reading
1Jan 6
Definitions of privacy. The Laplace mechanism. pdf
2Jan 13
The exponential mechanism. pdf
3Jan 20
Interactive data release I. pdf
4Jan 27
Interactive data release II. Composition of queries. pdf
5Feb 3
Mechanisms for sensitive queries. pdf
6Feb 10
Statistical limitations of private data release. pdf
7Feb 17
Computational limitations for synthetic data. pdf
Feb 24
Lunar New Year holiday
8Mar 3
Hardness of efficient mechanisms for counting queries. pdf
9Mar 10
Privacy and truthfulness. pdf
10Mar 17
Privacy in learning. pdf
11Mar 24
Private implementations. pdf
12Mar 31
Other definitions. pdf
Apr 7
Easter holiday
Apr 14
Project presentations


Course Information


Notes will be provided for every lecture. The main reference for the course is

The survey is free for download for personal use. Hard copies can also be ordered from Now Publishers.

Here are some notes on probability that refresh some basic concepts and explain the notation we use.