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Ero Balsa
Ero Balsa

Cornell Tech

Privacy Engineering Through Obfuscation


Privacy engineering seeks to provide tools and methods to design privacy-preserving systems or patch privacy invasive ones. Obfuscation is one of the essential tools in the privacy engineering toolkit. But what can we learn from the plethora of methods and techniques that one may categorize as obfuscation? What can we learn from the role obfuscation plays in privacy engineering? In this talk, Ero Balsa will provide an overview of the two main reasons why privacy engineers resort to obfuscation: to enable people to protect themselves against unnecessarily privacy-invasive systems, and to modulate the level of exposure that providing utility to untrusted parties requires. Ero will tie these two settings to concepts of personal and public utility, and examine the relationship between exposure requirements, architectural design and trust.


Ero Balsa is a postdoctoral research fellow at Cornell Tech's Digital Life Initiative. He is interested in how the designs of information systems impact society, mainly in terms of privacy and fairness, and in how to redesign or intervene these systems to address the problems they create. His work examines the design and analysis of privacy enhancing technologies and, in particular, technologies that enable users to contest asymmetries of power and knowledge, such as obfuscation tools and protective optimization technologies (POTs). His research focuses on the critical analysis of the assumptions that underlie obfuscation technologies, the operationalization of privacy requirements, and the systematization of privacy engineering practice. He is also keenly interested in the interplay between technology, law, and policy. Ero previously completed his PhD at the University of Leuven (Belgium) and obtained an MSc in telecommunication engineering at the University of Vigo (Spain).

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