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Privacy Enhancements and Assessments Research Group (pearg)

RG Name Privacy Enhancements and Assessments Research Group
Acronym pearg
State Active
Charter charter-irtf-pearg-01 Approved
Document dependencies
Additional resources Github
Zulip stream
Personnel Chairs Sara Dickinson, Shivan Kaul Sahib
Mailing list Address
To subscribe
Chat Room address

Charter for Research Group


Privacy is an increasingly desirable and often necessary property for Internet technologies. Evidence suggests that attacks on societal, community, and individual privacy occur with non-negligible frequency, as discussed in detail in RFC 7258 and in protocol-specific documents such as RFC 7626. Pervasive monitoring [RFC 7258], is a well known attack on privacy at incredible scale. The IETF’s and IAB’s responses to such attacks are to push for widespread end-to-end encryption along with encouraging effort in numerous working groups around reducing privacy leakage. Understanding attacks on privacy and the costs of addressing them is critical for ensuring the longevity, usability, and viability of Internet technologies.

Alongside such work global and region-specific legislation is evolving in this area (GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive are two such examples applicable to Europe). While the full impact of such legislative changes is not understood, this provides further motivation for enhancing available privacy techniques (beyond end-to-end encryption), advancing the state-of-the-art for privacy in protocols, and for assessing privacy of existing protocols.

Furthermore, there are varying definitions of privacy and confidentiality with different scope and context since it is often seen technically as an aspect of security analysis whereas it is in fact inherently a social, technical, economic, and legal construct.


The Privacy Enhancements and Assessments Research Group (PEARG) is a general forum for discussing and reviewing privacy enhancing technologies for network protocols and distributed systems in general, and for the IETF in particular.

The PEARG serves to:

Bridge between theory and practice, bringing new privacy-enhancing technologies from open source or academic communities to the wider Internet community and promoting an understanding of the use and applicability of these mechanisms via Informational or Experimental RFCs (in the tradition of HMAC [RFC 2104]).

Document research on new and existing privacy assessment methodologies. One goal of this work would be to inform future development of additional specifications in the tradition of RFC 6973 by the IETF or IAB. This work will involve outreach to ensure close cooperation with similar and related efforts in IETF.

Provide a forum for discussion and analysis of the cryptographic and practical aspects of privacy protocols e.g.
Analyse dependencies between protocols in the larger Internet ecosystem and understand the privacy implications in a wider context
Understand why some protocol design efforts have succeeded and other have not
Formulate better models for analyzing and quantifying privacy risks
Offer guidance on the use of emerging techniques and new uses of existing ones.

Provide a forum for IETF working groups developing protocols that include privacy technology elements to bring questions concerning the protocols to the PEARG for advice.


PEARG will actively engage with academic and open source (e.g. Tor Project, EFF, OTF) communities and encourage specification of key privacy-enhancing technologies in Informational or Experimental RFCs. It will also engage with other organisations e.g. PETS, SOUPS, W3C and the Privacy Interest Group therein.

The range of potential topics the group could invite work on is large; some examples of current emerging technologies where interest is solicited include:

Statistical Inference e.g.
    Differential privacy (DP) techniques applied to networked and distributed systems (Chrome and Apple are known to have implementations of DP)
    Anti-fingerprinting techniques 
Potential uses of multi-party computation (MPC) for privacy
Privacy preserving reputation systems
ESA (Encode, Shuffle, Analyze architecture) for privacy-preserving software monitoring as proposed by Google

PEARG is related to security and cryptographic protocols in the IETF and IRTF. Among the IETF working groups, PEARG will encourage participation so that desirable privacy properties are upheld for the Internet community. PEARG will also collaborate with the CFRG to ensure cryptographic techniques and algorithms are used appropriately for their intended purpose.