Protecting data privacy through hard-to-reverse negative databases

Fernando Esponda, Elena S. Ackley, Paul Helman, Haixia Jia, Stephanie Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


A set DB of data elements can be represented in terms of its complement set, known as a negative database. That is, all of the elements not in DB are represented, and DB itself is not explicitly stored. This method of representing data has certain properties that are relevant for privacy enhancing applications. The paper reviews the negative database (NDB) representation scheme for storing a negative image compactly, and proposes using a collection of NDB s to represent a single DB, that is, one NDB is assigned for each record in DB. This method has the advantage of producing negative databases that are hard to reverse in practice, i.e., from which it is hard to obtain DB. This result is obtained by adapting a technique for generating hard-to-solve 3-SAT formulas. Finally we suggest potential avenues of application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-415
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Information Security
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Booleansatisfiability
  • Negative database
  • Privacy
  • Security
  • k-SAT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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