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Bomhard, Nikolaus von; Ahlborn, Bernd; Mason, Catherine; Mansmann, Ulrich (2018): The Trusted Server: A secure computational environment for privacy compliant evaluations on plain personal data.
In: PLOS ONE 13(9), e0202752


A growing framework of legal and ethical requirements limit scientific and commercial evaluation of personal data. Typically, pseudonymization, encryption, or methods of distributed computing try to protect individual privacy. However, computational infrastructures still depend on human system administrators. This introduces severe security risks and has strong impact on privacy: system administrators have unlimited access to the computers that they manage including encryption keys and pseudonymization-tables. Distributed computing and data obfuscation technologies reduce but do not eliminate the risk of privacy leakage by administrators. They produce higher implementation effort and possible data quality degradation. This paper proposes the Trusted Server as an alternative approach that provides a sealed and inaccessible computational environment in a cryptographically strict sense. During operation or by direct physical access to storage media, data stored and processed inside the Trusted Server can by no means be read, manipulated or leaked, other than by brute-force. Thus, secure and privacy-compliant data processing or evaluation of plain person-related data becomes possible even from multiple sources, which want their data kept mutually secret.