Private Information Retrieval (PIR) is a useful technique which has a number of privacy-preserving applications. Researchers have been working on the problem since the 1990s and have made steady progress over the years in accessing databases privately. However, the equivalent of a private Google search, where large data can be sifted through anonymously without doing any heavy computational lifting, has been impossible up until now. Recently, three cryptography researchers have cracked a long-sought version of PIR and extended it to build a more general privacy strategy. Their work received a Best Paper Award in June at the annual Symposium on Theory of Computing and has breached a significant theoretical barrier on the way to a genuinely private search.
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