Corporate, Non-Profit and Government Partners

Participation by corporate, non-profit and government partners in the Data Privacy Lab is crucial to our success. Because of the nature of the problems we wish to study, it is essential that we ground our research in real-world problems and data sets. We look to our corporate, non-profit and government partners for sharing problems and data sets with which to experiment and for funding to support a portion of these efforts.

Corporate, non-profit and government partnership is intended as a low-cost mechanism for partners to learn more about data privacy problems and solutions, to gain access to Data Privacy Lab faculty and students and to obtain a rapid turnaround study by Data Privacy Lab researchers specific to the partnerís needs. Some organizations may become Data Privacy Lab partners for affiliation purposes and to receive internal publications. A turnaround project is not required.

Activities that may be Included in an Approved Turnaround Project

  • Quick work on a research or analysis problem.
  • Access to Data Privacy Lab internal publications.
  • Access to Data Privacy Lab seminars.
  • Access to faculty for separate consulting or targeted research projects.
  • Access to Data Privacy Lab non-restricted software
  • Access to Data Privacy Lab non-restricted data
  • Short-term visitors to Lab
  • Dues: $50k/year

All partnerships and turnaround projects in the Data Privacy Lab are subject to the Partnership Terms and Conditions Statement.

The Data Privacy Lab and Harvard University reserve the right to refuse to accept any partnership or project.

Turnaround Project

One benefit to which partners are entitled is consideration for a quick turnaround study on a problem of interest to the partner and the Data Privacy Lab. This is intended to provide partners with useful short-term input on problems they consider important, while enabling both the partner and Data Privacy Lab faculty to evaluate the potential of this topic for a longer-term targeted research effort. Proposals for turnaround projects are explored by the Director of the Data Privacy Lab and the partner jointly, but partnership does not require a turnaround project.

Examples of turnaround projects:

  • A company with a database of customer records may wish to define a turnaround project to apply existing Data Privacy Lab techniques to sufficiently render the data anonymous so that copies can be sold to marketing companies without revealing the identities of the customers. In this case, the company will provide the information in a single file and Data Privacy Lab researchers would perform analyses and experiments. Within three to six months, a brief written report will be provided and a face-to-face meeting will be held to discuss the results. Assessments of data for HIPAA compliance and for public-use files is common (tell me more).

  • A government agency may historically release data each year on a certain population and may wish to define a turnaround project to apply existing Data Privacy Lab re-identification techniques to determine whether the data are sufficiently anonymous; and if not, what vulnerabilities may exist. Within three to six months, a brief written report will be provided and a face-to-face meeting will be held to discuss the results.

  • When somewhat aged replicated information is declassified differently by one government agency than by another, the overall declassification effort suffers; by using two partial releases, the original may be reconstructed in its entirety. One of the government agencies may wish to define a turnaround project to apply existing Data Privacy Lab knowledge of data sources and automated techniques to refine declassification rules so information can be released with assurances of confidentiality. Within three to six months, a brief written report will be provided and a face-to-face meeting will be held to discuss the results.

  • When a government agency is faced with a Freedom of Information Act request for sensitive person-specific information, the agency may wish to define a turnaround project to apply existing Data Privacy Lab techniques to demonstrate which data values may be released or not to ensure privacy. Within three to six months, a brief written report will be provided and a face-to-face meeting will be held to discuss the results.

  • A non-profit organization may be exploring different privacy policies or proposals for legislation and may wish to define a turnaround project to apply existing Data Privacy Lab metrics to determine the comparative impact and effectiveness of these proposals. Within three to six months, a brief written report will be provided and a face-to-face meeting will be held to discuss the results.

These are just a few examples of the kinds of turnaround projects possible through the Data Privacy Lab. If the results of any of these appear promising, the corporate, non-profit or government partner may choose to fund a more targeted research effort on this topic, or may join with the Data Privacy Lab to find a source of funding.

Targeted Research Projects

Corporate, non-profit and government partners are invited to arrange additional targeted research projects with individual Data Privacy Lab faculty or groups of faculty. Such specific projects will be performed at cost. A prototypical two-year project involving a single faculty member and a single graduate student will typically cost in the range of $200k/year. We expect successful turnaround projects may lead to such long-term targeted projects.


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