Algorithmic Challenges in Protecting Privacy for Biomedical Data

January 10 - 12, 2018


PBD2018 ImageGenomics and digital phenotyping (electronic medical records, imaging, self-reported surveys, etc) have the potential to transform our understanding, diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. Realizing the potential of these rich data requires aggregating and sharing data across individual centers where the data is currently siloed. However, sharing data raises concerns about individual privacy. This workshop will explore the foundational algorithmic challenges of protecting individual privacy in this bio-medical context.

This workshop has a number of aims:

  • To explore both the theoretical and implementation challenges of emerging techniques for protecting the privacy of genomic and phenotyping data. This will include frameworks such as differential privacy, homomorphic encryption, and multiparty computation, as well as key tasks such as computing summary statistics and associations.
  • To bring together theorists and practitioners from industry, biobanks and hospitals in order to understand what are the real, actionable challenges in privacy and sharing of bio-medical data.
  • To formulate key foundational questions about privacy raised through new and emerging technologies such as genome editing or DNA storage.
  • To develop connections between privacy questions in -omics and notions of overfitting and fairness.


The workshop will be a mix of talks, posters, and breakout sessions centered around the different focus areas in which participants can work together to identify key challenges that need to be overcome, new theory or algorithms that may be needed, and how to delineate problem classes and solution frameworks. Specific initial focus areas include:

  • Privacy-preserving analysis in GWAS and population genetics
  • Adaptive data analysis and bioinformatics
  • Storage, search, and querying in genomic databases


Additional topics and refinements will be made as the list of participants is finalized.  This workshop will include a poster session; a request for posters will be sent to registered participants in advance of the workshop.

Organizing Committee

Cynthia Dwork (Harvard University, SEAS)
Sriram Sankararaman (University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA))
Annand Sarwate (Rutgers University)
James Zou (Stanford University)