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NARLabs' NCHC Promotes PETs to Tackle Privacy Issues in the Era of Big Data

Recently, the term "metaverse" has been a popular topic in our daily lives, and with the integration of new technologies such as virtual reality, AI, and 5G, it would seem we are entering a new digitized era featured by convenience and unhindered communication. However, a significant technological challenge in this era is how to use and analyze big data in a secure environment where privacy is prioritized. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is committed to promoting the development of digital technology while also greatly emphasizing the importance of information security. As an institute under MOST, NARLabs' National Center for High‑Performance Computing (NCHC) has implemented MOST policy by creating a PETs (privacy-enhancing technologies) research environment. It is hoped that this environment will allow for impROVed development of PETs through supercomputing so that researchers can collect and analyze big data while protecting the privacy of individuals.

To pROVide people-oriented services and smart applications, we must continuously analyze and compute big data to find optimal solutions. Just as in the process of R&D, scientists' ideas must be continuously tested and verified using data. The PETs-related research promoted by NCHC uses federated learning, homomorphic encryption, and quantum computing-based homomorphic encryption to allow researchers to utilize population data without affecting individual privacy. For example, medical information stored in our health insurance cards could be used to enable more researchers to integrate and analyze health trends. This can be of great help in public health and precision medicine, and with the help of PETs, private medical information would not be leaked.

"Federated learning" allows distributed data to be computed by the users who own the data; then, the computational results are assembled on the central server for weighted average computation. By repeating this process over and over, the power of big data can be utilized to find proper models and parameters while the data remains in its place of storage.

"Homomorphic encryption," meanwhile, is the most advanced encryption method in the world of digital technology. Users upload encrypted data to a cloud database, which directly computes the data without decrypting it. It then pROVides encrypted results to the user, allowing the user to decrypt the results themselves. Since encryption is maintained during the data receiving/computing process, personal privacy is not compromised, even if the information is intercepted. "Quantum computing-based homomorphic encryption" is a new encryption technology that can be adapted for the future post-quantum era.

These technologies can enhance the security of data usage and reduce the risk of privacy violation, since the original data does not need to be seen or touched. Although the technology of homomorphic encryption will cause the data to expand hundreds or even thousands of times, the computation time can be reduced through the power of NCHC's supercomputers. In addition, the data decentralization of federated learning, which transmits a large number of computational parameters through NCHC's secure high-speed network, can more efficiently allow teams to cooperate in training powerful models. Data can be shared and big data analysis can be run without requiring the data to be removed from its place of origin. It is also possible to use a combination of the aforementioned PETs to further minimize the risk of privacy breaches.

With the popularity of cloud services, 5G, IoT, and other technologies, scientists are becoming more and more adept at using big data. However, in the process of using data, balancing the interests of public development and personal privacy rights has always been a core issue. NCHC, which has national-level high-speed computing facilities, has taken on the mission of promoting PETs to accelerate the development and introduction of next-generation personal data privacy protection technology in Taiwan. NCHC hopes that in the near future, with secure data flow, the people of Taiwan can enjoy the convenience brought by technology with peace of mind.