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LDI receives new grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Labor Dynamics Institute directors, Professor John M. Abowd and Lars Vilhuber, have received a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to study “The Economics of Socially-Efficient Privacy and Confidentiality Management for Statistical Agencies.”

Together with collaborator Professor Ian Schmutte of the University of Georgia, the three-year, $535,970 grant will allow Abowd and Vilhuber to create a library of the most promising privacy-preserving algorithms, then systematically evaluate the trade-offs between accuracy and privacy when they are applied to real large-scale databases.

It will also establish new measurements of the relative social preferences for privacy protection and data accuracy.

Based on a state-of-the-art algorithm library of privacy-preserving query mechanisms, the research will develop implementable mechanisms to generate provably accurate, synthetic data with formal privacy protection. The synthetic data and the source data are analyzed using realistic, real research problems.

The grant aims to provide guidance primarily for public statistical agencies on the most promising methods to manage confidential information resources to maximal social benefit, Vilhuber said.

The expected outcomes are improved access to detailed but confidential databases, while preserving the privacy of respondents and subjects.

The increase in access has a multiplier—future researchers will be able to make new findings, and better inform policy, and their results can be used to improve the published data, Vilhuber said.

Additional information can be found on the Labor Dynamics Institute's project page: