Privacy and Security in the Genomic Era (preprint)

Carl Gunter’s THaW group has released an article on “Privacy and Security in the Genomic Era”, submitted to ACM Computing Surveys. This article has a lot more information than a mere literature survey, and it may be beneficial for newcomers in this area. For convenience, a preprint is available on arXiv, and the abstract is below.

They also created an online tutorial (with text, images and videos) to learn the basic biology required to understand this (and in general other) genomic privacy papers.

Authors: Muhammad Naveed, Erman Ayday, Ellen W. Clayton, Jacques Fellay, Carl A. Gunter, Jean-Pierre Hubaux, Bradley A. Malin, XiaoFeng Wang


Genome sequencing technology has advanced at a rapid pace and it is now possible to generate highly-detailed genotypes inexpensively. The collection and analysis of such data has the potential to support various applications, including personalized medical services. While the benefits of the genomics revolution are trumpeted by the biomedical community, the increased availability of such data has major implications for personal privacy; notably because the genome has certain essential features, which include (but are not limited to) (i) an association with certain diseases, (ii) identification capability (e.g., forensics), and (iii) revelation of family relationships. Moreover, direct-to-consumer DNA testing increases the likelihood that genome data will be made available in less regulated environments, such as the Internet and for-profit companies. The problem of genome data privacy thus resides at the crossroads of computer science, medicine, and public policy. While the computer scientists have addressed data privacy for various data types, there has been less attention dedicated to genomic data. Thus, the goal of this paper is to provide a systematization of knowledge for the computer science community. In doing so, we address some of the (sometimes erroneous) beliefs of this field and we report on a survey we conducted about genome data privacy with biomedical specialists. Then, after characterizing the genome privacy problem, we review the state-of-the-art regarding privacy attacks on genomic data and strategies for mitigating such attacks, as well as contextualizing these attacks from the perspective of medicine and public policy. This paper concludes with an enumeration of the challenges for genome data privacy and presents a framework to systematize the analysis of threats and the design of countermeasures as the field moves forward.

This entry was posted in Project news, publication by David Kotz. Bookmark the permalink.

About David Kotz

David Kotz is the Champion International Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth College. He served as Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Sciences for six years and as the Executive Director of the Institute for Security Technology Studies for four years. In 2013 he was appointed to the US Healthcare IT Policy Committee. His research interests include security and privacy, pervasive computing for healthcare, and wireless networks. He has published over 100 refereed journal and conference papers and obtained over $65m in grant funding. He is PI of a $10m grant from the NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program and leads a five-university team investigating Trustworthy Health & Wellness technology (see He is an IEEE Fellow, a Senior Member of the ACM, a 2008 Fulbright Fellow to India, and an elected member of Phi Beta Kappa. After receiving his A.B. in Computer Science and Physics from Dartmouth in 1986, he completed his Ph.D in Computer Science from Duke University in 1991 and returned to Dartmouth to join the faculty. For more information see

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