Privacy Enhancing Technologies: Categories, Use Cases, and Considerations


Kaitlin Asrow, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Spiro Samonas, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

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June 1, 2021

Information can provide unique insights to improve welfare, drive business innovation, and help countries navigate crises, such as the COVID-19 global pandemic. Unfortunately, the underlying data that are used to create information and insight, can also be breached, or misused, and require significant resources to manage efficiently and securely. Balancing the opportunities and risks of collecting and using data is an ongoing policy debate in the United States and around the world and there are opportunities to leverage technology and innovation alongside policy to enable more secure, and demonstrably private data collection, processing, transfer, use, and storage.

Privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) are a promising set of tools, techniques, and systems that can help keep data secure and private while still leveraging them to create value. PETs have the potential to enable both greater security and confidentiality of data across use cases, and to enable greater individual control over data by providing transparency, choice, and auditability within data systems. This publication highlights the use cases and maturity of PETs today, as well as challenges and considerations around their implementation.