CS 2950-v: Topics in Applied Cryptography: Crypto for Social Good (Fall ‘19)

Meeting Time: TTh 10:30-11:50 AM
Location: CIT 506
Instructor: Seny Kamara (seny@brown.edu)
Seny’s office hours: by appointment, CIT 507
Teaching assistant: Ghous Amjad
Ghous’ Office hours: Wednesday, 2:30-4:30, CIT 423

Description: This course surveys recent developments in applied cryptography. Research in this field is motivated by privacy and security issues that arise in practice from areas like cloud computing, databases, surveillance and finance. Topics will vary each year.

In Fall 2019, the topic will be crypto for social good. We will learn how surveillance has been (and currently is) used to suppress dissent and how new surveillance technologies are deployed against social protest movements, intimate partners and immigrants. We will study how modern cryptography enables new privacy-enhancing technologies and investigate how cryptography can be used to protect dissent and enhance the safety and welfare of marginalized groups.

Prerequisites: None but CS 166 recommended (email instructor if not sure).

Syllabus: pdf


Topics (tentative)

  1. Privacy
  2. Surveillance of social movements
  3. Sexual misconduct and intimate partner abuse
  4. Human trafficking
  5. Privacy-enhancing cryptography (e.g., secure multi-party computation, encrypt ed databases, differential privacy)

There is no textbook required for this course but students may find Introduction to Modern Cryptography by Katz and Lindell helpful to gain familiarity with cryptography. Other recommended (free) resources include Introduction to Modern Cryptography by Bellare and Rogaway and Course in Cryptography by Pass and Shelat.


Sept. 05 (Th): Introduction and Overview

Sept. 10 (Tu): Discussion

Sept. 12 (Th): Historical surveillance of social movements: South Africa

Sept. 17 (Tu): Historical surveillance of social movements: The US

Sept. 19 (Th): Introduction to Cryptography

Sept. 24 (Tu): Differential privacy

Sept. 26 (Th): Encrypted databases

Oct. 01 (Tu): Secure multi-party computation

Oct. 03 (Th): Private set intersection

Oct. 08 (Tu): Secure Messaging

Oct. 10 (Th): Tor

Oct. 15 (Tu): Surveillance technologies: facial recognition

Oct. 17 (Th): Surveillance technologies: Drones

Oct. 22 (Tu): Surveillance technologies: License plate readers

Oct. 24 (Th): Canceled

Oct. 29 (Tu): Surveillance technologies: IMSI-Catchers (aka Stingrays)

Oct. 31 (Th): Surveillance of social movements: Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock

Nov. 05 (Tu): Surveillance of social movements: social media

Nov. 07 (Th): Surveillance databases: gang databases and immigration databases

Nov. 12 (Tu): Sexual misconduct

Nov. 14 (Th): Intimate partner violence

Nov. 19 (Tu): Human trafficking: Law enforcement

Nov. 21 (Th): Human trafficking: victim servicve providers and survivors

Nov. 26 (Tu): Human trafficking: Getting data

Nov. 28 (Th): Thanksgiving

Dec. 03 (Tu): Project Presentations

Dec. 05 (Th): Project Presentations

Additional Resources