Big Data Initiative on Privacy and Security

Running 2016-2019

BDHub-logo.pngThe Big Data Initiative on Privacy and Security is a collaboration of DIMACS and the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub to catalyze both foundational and practical advances in privacy and security for big data.

Security and privacy play a key role in areas such as health, energy, and smart cities, as well as constituting a grand challenge in and of themselves. Privacy and security are critical for realizing Big Data’s promise to advance society. If data are used without regard to privacy of individuals or protection of the data, then individuals may be hurt. If the data’s authenticity is not guaranteed, or if data are not permitted to be used at all due to privacy and security concerns, then the data’s value is not realized. As the information that is collected about us grows in quantity, scientific and commercial value, and sensitivity, addressing these challenges is crucial to accessing the benefits of big data while ensuring that privacy and associated basic rights such as free speech and association are respected.

The Big Data Initiative on Privacy and Security is a planning project associated with the National Science Foundation’s BD Spokes program. The Initiative seeks to lay the groundwork for advancing progress in privacy and security of big data by catalyzing research on methods to keep data secure on a large scale while also keeping it sufficiently available, guaranteeing its authenticity, and ensuring that privacy of individuals whose data is involved is respected.

As a first step toward this goal, the Initiative will organize and host workshops to develop a research agenda on privacy and security for big data and to build a community of people who will work together and separately to advance this research agenda by proposing regional activities in security and privacy related to the Northeast BD Hub and by catalyzing new partnerships and proposals.

The workshops each combine technical questions, specific to individual disciplines, with broader questions that require the involvement of multiple disciplines and a wide range of organizations. Key aspects of each workshop will include:

  • tutorials to introduce people from different communities to the relevant background and state of the art in each others’ areas;
  • research talks;
  • a mix of joint sessions and parallel sessions for sub-communities as appropriate (e.g., government and nonprofits, interaction with different spokes, etc.);
  • breakout groups and panels for the discussion and brainstorming of possible future community-building activities; and
  • smaller working group or planning group meetings.

The long-term vision of the project is to catalyze both foundational and practical advances in privacy and security for big data that will positively impact society by (1) expanding the extent to which individuals can have control over and confidence in the protection of their personal data, and (2) enabling data to be harnessed for advances in areas including health, energy, smart cities and regions, finance, and education.

Read a DIMACS news highlight about the Initiative here.

Initiative Leaders:

René Bastón, liaison to the NE Big Data Innovation Hub, Columbia University
Adam Smith, Boston University
Rebecca Wright, Rutgers University

Opportunities to Participate:

  • Calendar of Events: A list of workshops and other activities related to the Initiative.

  • Working Groups: The Initiative includes smaller working group meetings aimed at laying plans for future activities and/or developing a set of best practices for sharing research data.

  • Tutorials: Initiative workshops include tutorial presentations aimed at the entire workshop audience. Tutorial presentations seek to summarize the state of the art, in both research and practice, for selected themes within the workshop. Each tutorial serves as an introduction to one or more of the fundamental issues in the field.

  • Graduate Student Support: The Initiative has funds set aside for graduate students interested in attending workshops. Students interested in attending initiative-sponsored workshops are encouraged to contact the workshop organizers for information on how to apply for such support.

  • Materials and Publications: Activities of the Initiative will be documented through slides and video of workshop presentations, including several tutorials that will be of broad interest. We also anticipate that activities will lead to a variety of research publications.

Join the Mailing List:

If you would like to receive updates and announcements about future activities you can subscribe to the mailing list for the Big Data Initiative on Privacy and Security. Alternatively, you can contact the DIMACS Publicity Coordinator and ask to be placed on the SF-BDPrivacy mailing list.


The Big Data Initiative on Privacy and Security is held in cooperation with the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub. It is supported by DIMACS and its partners, and by the National Science Foundation under grant number IIS-1636764.