Australia has cemented itself as a global leader in privacy enhancing technologies after winning an international bid to bring the Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium (PETS) to Sydney in 2021. 

A joint tender between CSIRO’s Data61 and The Optus Macquarie University Cyber Security Hub, both of which will be hosting the event, secured the conference, which comes off the back of Data61 leading another successful bid to host the largest machine learning conference, NeurIPS, also in 2021.   

An annual convention, PETS brings together privacy experts from around the world to present and discuss recent advances and new perspectives on research in privacy technologies. 

Since its inception in 2000, the summit has catered towards individuals, organisations and government groups concerned about the growing risk of data misuse in a digital-driven landscape and how information can be ethically collected, shared and used to enhance products, services and research.  

To attain this balance, a range of people and enterprises are needed to contribute ideas and techniques, a consideration PETS has taken well in hand. 

“The conference has a really multi-disciplinary nature because it needs to attract as many different perspectives of privacy as possible,” explains Professor Dali Kaafar, one of the leading

Professor Dali Kaafar

Data61 team members behind the tender and the general chair of PETS 2021.

“Everyone from industry representatives, government departments, data privacy and security lawyers, and researchers and specialists from around the world will be attending and engaging with the local privacy community.” 

According to Kaafar, PETS 2021 will cover a broad of scope of topics, including web privacy, transparency and robustness of techniques of privacy systems, surveillance profiling, data mining risks, information leakage, data correlation, cryptographic tools for privacy, human factors, usability, and more. 

“Law and psychology are actually some of the consistent themes in PETS,” says Kaafar. “Recently, we have seen further contributions towards themes associated with blockchain privacy, Forensics and privacy and Genomic and medical privacy ,privacy miscommunication, and the constraints of surveillance, which are all very relevant to Australia’s current landscape”

Prevalent topics in 2021 could include Australia’s safety and national security, as well as debates around citizen privacy and its implications. In addition, Kaafar suggests the concept of an encryption bill and newly emerged information protection themes, such as the economics of privacy, will be front of mind for attendees.  

frequent participant and contributor since 2007, Kaafar says the most interesting thing for him is getting to see the evolution of the symposium and its focus topic. 

“2007 was early days where people and politicians didn’t really give much thought about privacy, and even industry to some extent,” explains Kaafar. 

“Now people from all over the world in various disciplines attend to discuss and work together to create a solution to this hugely important and international challenge.”