Cynthia Dwork

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Cynthia Dwork
Cynthia Dwork lectures at Harvard Kennedy School.jpg
Dwork lectures at Harvard Kennedy School in 2018
Born (1958-06-27) June 27, 1958 (age 64)
Alma materPrinceton University (BSE)
Cornell University (PhD)
Known forDifferential privacy
Non-Malleable Cryptography
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science[1]
InstitutionsHarvard University
Microsoft Research[2]
ThesisBounds on Fundamental Problems in Parallel and Distributed Computation (1984)
Doctoral advisorJohn Hopcroft[3][4]

Cynthia Dwork (born June 27, 1958) is an American computer scientist best known for her contributions to cryptography, distributed computing, and algorithmic fairness. She is one of the inventors of differential privacy and proof-of-work.

Dwork works at Harvard University, where she is Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Affiliated Professor at Harvard Law School and Harvard's Department of Statistics. She is also a distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research.[2]

Dwork was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2008 for fundamental contributions to distributed algorithms and the security of cryptosystems.

Early life and education[edit]

Dwork received her B.S.E. from Princeton University in 1979, graduating Cum Laude, and receiving the Charles Ira Young Award for Excellence in Independent Research. Dwork received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1983[4] for research supervised by John Hopcroft.[5][3]

Career and research[edit]

Dwork is known for her research placing privacy-preserving data analysis on a mathematically rigorous foundation, including the co-invention of differential privacy, a strong privacy guarantee frequently permitting highly accurate data analysis (with Frank McSherry, Kobbi Nissim, and Adam D. Smith, 2006).[6] The definition of differential privacy relies on the notion of indistinguishability of the outputs irrespective of whether an individual has contributed their data or not. This is typically achieved by adding small amounts of noise either to the input data or to outputs of computations performed on the data.[7] She uses a systems-based approach to studying fairness in algorithms including those used for placing ads.[8] Dwork has also made contributions in cryptography and distributed computing, and is a recipient of the Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize for her early work on the foundations of fault-tolerant systems.[9]

Her contributions in cryptography include non-malleable cryptography with Danny Dolev and Moni Naor in 1991, the first lattice-based cryptosystem with Miklós Ajtai in 1997, which was also the first public-key cryptosystem for which breaking a random instance is as hard as solving the hardest instance of the underlying mathematical problem ("worst-case/average-case equivalence"). With Naor she also first presented the idea of, and a technique for, combating e-mail spam by requiring a proof of computational effort, also known as proof-of-work — a key technology underlying hashcash and bitcoin.

Selected works[edit]

Her publications[1] include:

  • Dwork, Cynthia; Lynch, Nancy; Stockmeyer, Larry (1988). "Consensus in the presence of partial synchrony". Journal of the ACM. 35 (2): 288–323. CiteSeerX doi:10.1145/42282.42283. S2CID 17007235. — this paper received the Dijkstra Prize in 2007.
  • Dwork, Cynthia; Roth, Aaron (2014). The Algorithmic Foundations of Differential Privacy (PDF). Foundations and Trends in Theoretical Computer Science. Now Publishers. ISBN 978-1601988188.

Awards and honors[edit]

She was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) in 2008,[10][11] as a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 2008, as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, as a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 2015,[12] and as a member of the American Philosophical Society in 2016.[13]

Dwork received a number of awards for her work.

  • In 2007, she received her first test-of-time, the Dijkstra Prize, for her work on consensus problems together with Nancy Lynch and Larry Stockmeyer.[14][15]
  • In 2009, she won the PET Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies.[16]
  • In 2016, both the International Association for Cryptologic Research 2016 TCC Test-of-Time Award[17] and the 2017 Gödel Prize were awarded to Cynthia Dwork, Frank McSherry, Kobbi Nissim and Adam D. Smith for their seminal paper that introduced differential privacy.[18]
  • In 2020, she received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal for "foundational work in privacy, cryptography, and distributed computing, and for leadership in developing differential privacy."[19]
  • She is the 2020 winner of the Knuth Prize.[20]
  • She is a co-winner of the 2021 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award for her and her co-authors' "fundamental contributions to the development of differential privacy".[21]
  • She is co-winner of the 2022 RSA Award for Excellence in Mathematics for "contributions to the foundation of privacy and to the foundations of cryptography".[22]
  • In 2022, her 1991 STOC paper, with Dolev and Naor, “Non-Malleable Cryptography,”[23] won a STOC 30-year Test-of Time award.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Dwork is the daughter of American mathematician Bernard Dwork, and sister of historian Debórah Dwork.[citation needed] She has a black belt in taekwondo.[25]


  1. ^ a b Cynthia Dwork publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ a b "Cynthia Dwork at Microsoft Research". Microsoft Research.
  3. ^ a b Cynthia Dwork at the Mathematics Genealogy Project Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ a b Dwork, Cynthia (1983). Bounds on Fundamental Problems in Parallel and Distributed Computation. (PhD thesis). Cornell University. hdl:1813/6427. OCLC 634017620. icon of an open green padlock
  5. ^ Hopcroft, John. "John Hopcroft's Webpage". Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  6. ^ Hartnett, Kevin (23 November 2016). "How to Force Our Machines to Play Fair". Quanta Magazine. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Behind "Differential Privacy," Apple's Way to See Your Data Without Seeing You". Wireless Week. 2016-06-16. Archived from the original on 2018-02-04. Retrieved 2018-02-03.
  8. ^ White, Gillian B. "When Algorithms Don't Account for Civil Rights". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-02-03.
  9. ^ Knies, Rob (2007-08-09). "Microsoft Research's Dwork Wins 2007 Dijkstra Prize". Microsoft Research Blog. Microsoft. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  10. ^ "Academy Home - American Academy of Arts & Sciences". Archived from the original on 18 June 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  11. ^ "News - School of Engineering and Applied Science". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  12. ^ ACM Fellows Named for Computing Innovations that Are Advancing Technology in the Digital Age, Association for Computing Machinery, 2015, archived from the original on 2015-12-09, retrieved 2015-12-09.
  13. ^ "Election of New Members at the American Philosophical Society's 2016 Spring Meeting" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 February 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  14. ^ PODC web site: Dijkstra Prize 2007.
  15. ^ Bortnikov, Edward (2007). "Review of DISC '07". ACM SIGACT News. 38 (4): 49–53. doi:10.1145/1345189. ISSN 0163-5700..
  16. ^ "PET Award". Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  17. ^ "TCC Test-of-Time Award".
  18. ^ Chita, Efi. "2017 Gödel Prize". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  19. ^ "IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal Recipients" (PDF). Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  20. ^ "2020 Knuth Prize Citation" (PDF). ACM SIGACT. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  21. ^ "2021 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award".
  22. ^ "Award for Excellence in the Field of Mathematics, Co-Sponsored by IACR".
  23. ^ Dolev, Danny; Dwork, Cynthia; Naor, Moni (2000). "Non-Malleable Cryptography". SIAM Journal on Computing. 30 (2): 391–437. CiteSeerX doi:10.1137/S0097539795291562.
  24. ^ "The 30-year Test-of Time award recognizes three seminal papers that were published in STOC 1990 and 1991".
  25. ^ "Leading Silicon Valley computer scientist to join Harvard faculty". 2016-02-19.

Further reading[edit]