Honorable Mention for the 2020 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award was given to Henry Corrigan-Gibbs (Yale CS Major Class of 2010, now professor at MIT).
Corrigan-Gibbs’s dissertation, “Protecting Privacy by Splitting Trust,” improved user privacy on the internet using techniques that combine theory and practice. Corrigan-Gibbs first develops a new type of probabilistically checkable proof (PCP), and then applies this technique to develop the Prio system, an elegant and scalable system that addresses a real industry need. Prio is being deployed at several large companies, including Mozilla, where it has been shipping in the nightly version of the Firefox browser since late 2019, the largest-ever deployment of PCPs.
Corrigan-Gibbs’s dissertation studies how to robustly compute aggregate statistics about a user population without learning anything else about the users. For example, his dissertation introduces a tool enabling Mozilla to measure how many Firefox users encountered a particular web tracker without learning which users encountered that tracker or why. The thesis develops a new system of probabilistically checkable proofs that lets every browser send a short zero-knowledge proof that its encrypted contribution to the aggregate statistics is well formed. The key innovation is that verifying the proof is extremely fast.
Corrigan-Gibbs is an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is also a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. His research focuses on computer security, cryptography, and computer systems. Corrigan-Gibbs received his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University.