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The Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS)

The Center for Education and Research in
Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS)

Emiliano DeCristofaro - PARC

Students: Spring 2022, unless noted otherwise, sessions will be virtual on Zoom.

Whole Genome Sequencing: Innovation Dream or Privacy Nightmare?

Mar 06, 2013

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Recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies have put ubiquitous availability of whole human genomes within reach. It is no longer hard to imagine the day when everyone will have the means to obtain and store one's own DNA sequence. Widespread and affordable availability of whole genomes immediately opens up important opportunities in a number of health-related fields. In particular, common genomic applications and tests performed in vitro today will soon be conducted computationally, using digitized genomes. New applications will be developed as genome-enabled medicine becomes increasingly preventive and personalized. However, the very same progress also amplifies worrisome privacy concerns, since a genome represents a treasure trove of highly personal and sensitive information.
In this talk, we will overview biomedical advances in genomics and discuss associated privacy, ethical, and security challenges. We begin to address genomic privacy by focusing on some important applications: Paternity Tests, Ancestry Testing, Personalized Medicine, and Genetic Compatibility Tests. After carefully analyzing these applications and their privacy requirements, we propose a set of efficient techniques based on private set operations. This allows us to implement, in silico, some operations that are currently performed via in vitro methods, in a secure fashion. Experimental results demonstrate that proposed techniques are both feasible and practical today. Finally, we explore a few alternatives to securely store human genomes and allow authorized parties to run tests in such a way that only the required minimum amount of information is disclosed, and present an Android API framework geared for privacy-preserving genomic testing.

About the Speaker

Emiliano De Cristofaro is a Research Scientist in the Security and Privacy group at PARC (a Xerox Company). In 2011, he received a PhD in Networked Systems from the University of California, Irvine, advised by Gene Tsudik. His research interests include privacy-oriented cryptography, system security, as well as security and privacy in emerging areas, such as, genomics, big-data analytics, and smart grids. In 2007, Emiliano was awarded the 4-year Dean's Outstanding Fellowship and, in 2011, the Distinguished Dissertation Fellowship, both from UC Irvine. In 2013 and 2014, he will serve as the Program Co-Chair of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS). His web page is available at

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