Our latest updates on Fully Homomorphic Encryption

Posted by Miguel Guevara, Product Manager, Privacy and Data Protection Office.

Privacy protection illustration

As developers, it’s our responsibility to help keep our users safe online and protect their data. This starts with building products that are secure by default, private by design, and put users in control. Everything we make at Google is underpinned by these principles, and we’re proud to be an industry leader in developing, deploying, and scaling new privacy-preserving technologies that make it possible to learn valuable insights and create helpful experiences while protecting our users’ privacy.

That’s why today, we are excited to announce that we’re open-sourcing a first-of-its-kind, general-purpose transpiler for Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE), which will enable developers to compute on encrypted data without being able to access any personally identifiable information.

A deeper look at the technology

With FHE, encrypted data can travel across the Internet to a server, where it can be processed without being decrypted. Google’s transpiler will enable developers to write code for any type of basic computation such as simple string processing or math, and run it on encrypted data. The transpiler will transform that code into a version that can run on encrypted data. This then allows developers to create new programming applications that don’t need unencrypted data. FHE can also be used to train machine learning models on sensitive data in a private manner.

For example, imagine you’re building an application for people with diabetes. This app might collect sensitive information from its users, and you need a way to keep this data private and protected while also sharing it with medical experts to learn valuable insights that could lead to important medical advancements. With Google’s transpiler for FHE, you can encrypt the data you collect and share it with medical experts who, in turn, can analyze the data without decrypting it – providing helpful information to the medical community, all while ensuring that no one can access the data’s underlying information.

In the next 10 years, FHE could even help researchers find associations between specific gene mutations by analyzing genetic information across thousands of encrypted samples and testing different hypotheses to identify the genes most strongly associated with the diseases they’re studying.

Making more products private by design

Our principle to make our products private by design drives us to build ground-breaking computing technologies that enable personalized experiences while protecting your private information. Privacy-preserving technologies are on the cutting-edge of Google’s innovations, and they have already shown great potential to help shape a more private internet.

In 2016, Google researchers invented Federated Learning, a technique that helps preserve privacy by keeping as much personal information on your device as possible. And in 2019, Google made its differential privacy library freely available to any organization or developer, an advanced anonymization technology that enables developers to learn from their data privately. No one has scaled the use of Differential Privacy more than we have.

We’ve been thrilled to see these technologies put to use across the globe; in France, for example, a startup called Arkhn has been able to accelerate scientific discovery using differential privacy to share data across hospitals.

We still have a ways to go before most computations happen with FHE — but much as it took some time for HTTPS to take off and be widely adopted, today’s announcement is an important step towards bringing users helpful products that preserve their privacy and keep their data safe.

At Google, we know that open-sourcing our technologies with the developer community for feedback and use helps make them better. We will continue to invest and lead the privacy-preserving technology field by publishing new work, and open-sourcing it for everyone to use at scale – and we’re excited to continue this practice by sharing this latest advancement with developers everywhere. We can’t wait to see what you’ll build, and we look forward to collaborating on the journey towards a safer Internet.