SPAR

Security and Privacy Applied Research Lab

On the Computational Practicality of Private Information Retrieval

Radu Sion
Department of Computer Science
Stony Brook University

Abstract

We explore the limits of single-server computational private information retrieval (PIR) for the purpose of preserving client access patterns leakage. We show that deployment of non-trivial single server PIR protocols on real hardware of the recent past would have been orders of magnitude less time-efficient than trivially transferring the entire database. We stress that these results are beyond existing knowledge of mere ``impracticality'' under unfavorable assumptions. They rather reflect an inherent limitation with respect to modern hardware, likely the result of a communication-cost centric protocol design. We argue that this is likely to hold on non-specialized traditional hardware in the foreseeable future. We validate our reasoning in an experimental setup on modern off-the-shelf hardware.