Palak Jain


Hello, I’m Palak Jain(they/them/theirs). I’m a third year PhD student at Boston University working with professors Adam Smith, Ran Canetti, and Mayank Varia on Cryptography and Differential Privacy. I’m interested in the implications of the various ways of defining and applying privacy and security in the real world.

PhD student | Boston University

Advisor: Adam Smith

Focus: Cryptography, Differential Privacy

GPA: 3.8

B.A. | Reed College

Award: Commendation for Excellence for academic performance during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Major: Mathematics -- Computer Science

Senior Thesis: Expository thesis starting from basics and going through different oblivious RAM constructions (Square-root ORAM, Heirarchical ORAM, Tree ORAM, Path ORAM).

Computer Science GPA: 3.8

Professional Service
Boston Area Differential Privacy Student Reading Group

- Satchit Sivakumar and I established a Boston area differential privacy reading group with students from Boston University and Northeastern University.

- Co-organized the reading group with Satchit Sivakumar for two semesters (January 2021 - January 2022).

IEEE S&P Shadow PC 2020


CSF 2020


Usenix 2021


ALT 2022


Graduate Courses

- Private Data Analysis

- Network Security

- Randomized Computation

- Applied Cryptography

- Complexity

- Advanced Cryptography: Multiparty Computation

- Formal Methods in Security and Privacy

- Graduate Networks

Undergraduate Courses

- Linear Algebra

- Abstract Algebra

- Number Theory

- Computability and Complexity (A+)

- Cryptography (A+)

- Probability and Statistics

- Computer Systems

- Approximation Algorithms (A+)

- Algorithms and Data Structures

- Real Analysis

- Introduction to Mathematical Analysis

- Multivariable Calculus

- Knot Theory (A+)

- Topology

(Recent) Awards/ Grants/ Fellowships

Dates: 2021- 2022

Description: We won a grant from the BU Center for Antiracist Research to study the impacts of the US Census’ new disclosure avoidance system.

Projects: (1) Studying the way in which the disclosure avoidance system will impact data users from historically marginalized communities. (2) Studying the effects of the disclosure avoidance system on voting rights acts and litigation.

Dates: Spring 2021

Course: Network Security

Instructor of Record: Gabriel Kaptchuk

Description: Enrollment of 50 students during a hybrid semester. Course had to be fully revamped due to creation of new lower-level course that covered much of the previously covered material.

Dates: 2019-2024

Description: Selective award made to a small number of admitted PhD students based on particularly high potential and promise.

The Price of Differential Privacy under Continual Observation

Dates: October 2020 - Dec 2021

Authors: Palak Jain, Sofya Raskhodnikova, Satchit Sivakumar, Adam Smith.

Abstract: We study the accuracy of differentially private mechanisms in the continual release model. A continual release mechanism receives a sensitive dataset as a stream of $T$ inputs and produces, after receiving each input, an accurate output on the obtained inputs. In contrast, a batch algorithm receives the data as one batch and produces a single output.

We provide the first strong lower bounds on the error of continual release mechanisms. In particular, for two fundamental problems that are widely studied and used in the batch model, we show that the worst case error of every continual release algorithm is $\tilde \Omega(T^{1/3})$ times larger than that of the best batch algorithm. Previous work shows only a polylogarithimic (in $T$) gap between the worst case error achievable in these two models; further, for many problems, including the summation of binary attributes, the polylogarithmic gap is tight (Dwork et al., 2010; Chan et al., 2010). Our results show that problems closely related to summation---specifically, those that require selecting the largest of a set of sums---are fundamentally harder in the continual release model than in the batch model.

Our lower bounds assume only that privacy holds for streams fixed in advance (the "nonadaptive" setting). However, we provide matching upper bounds that hold in a model where privacy is required even for adaptively selected streams. This model may be of independent interest.

(In Submission to PODS 2022.)

Universally Composable End-to-End Secure Messaging

Dates: November 2019 - in progress

Authors: Ran Canetti, Palak Jain, Marika Swanberg, Mayank Varia.

Abstract: Our work provides an ideal functionality $\mathcal{F}_{SM}$ that encapsulates and extends many known properties of end-to-end secure messaging within a composable framework. We provide a universally composable (UC) security analysis showing that (with a few small changes) the Signal messaging protocol realizes our ideal functionality.

Secure messaging is perhaps the quintessential cryptographic problem: its goal is to allow two participants Alice and Bob to exchange messages over an untrusted, asynchronous communication channel in the presence of an adversary who might corrupt either the communication channel or the endpoint devices.

Modern end-to-end encrypted secure messengers like the Signal protocol (built on top of predecessors like Off-The-Record) provide client-to-client security guarantees that emulate the confidentiality and ephemerality of face-to-face speech, and they also offer the efficiency and immediacy of sending or receiving messages even when the counterparty is offline.

Although standalone security analyses of such secure messaging protocols exist, they are insufficient to capture the security of the entire messaging ecosystem, in which each person is participating concurrently in several conversations and the same pair of parties may even be communicating over multiple services in parallel. Our work captures this scenario by providing a universally composable (UC) security analysis of (a slightly modified version of) the Signal protocol.

(eprint link coming soon.)

(TA) Network Security

(Recipient of the CS Excellence Award for Teaching at Boston University for this course.)

Dates: Spring 2022

Instructor of Record: Gabriel Kaptchuk

Some Specific Tasks:

- Designed a cryptography review handout.

- Designed a cryptography review assignment, and one on Signal's double ratchet algorithm.

- Designed and taught weekly lab sessions on cryptography review, ARP, BGP, Signatures, Certificates, TLS, Tor, and Signal's double ratchet algorithm.

- Transcribed lecture notes for each lecture to aid students in learning in the new hybrid environment.

Industry Experience

Dates: Feb 2019 – Jun 2019

Role: Lead frontend developer for an app for teachers at Klay prep schools across India.

Dates: November 2018 – Oct 2019

Some Specific Tasks:

- Conducted sample playtests for other boards games to get a feel for how customers interact with instruction manuals in general.

- Worked closely with the game developers to write game instructions and check consistency of game rules.

- Organized the playtesting efforts for the board game Bharata 600 BC.

Dates: Aug 2015 – May 2018

Some Specific Tasks:

- Licensed by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission following a year long training program.

- Conducted experiments with neutron activation analysis.

- Calibrated and performed maintenance on facility equipment and components.

- Calibrated and performed maintenance on facility equipment and components.

- Conducted routine safety inspections and record keeping.

- Trained reactor license candidates.

Description: PALLAVINOPANY is a graphic design studio that specalizes in corporate identity and packaging design.

Dates: May 2014 – Aug 2014

Some Specific Tasks:

- Collaborated with team at daily brainstorming meetings for ongoing projects.

- Assisted in the creation of designs for ongoing projects, working closely with the artistic director..

- Researched and analysed appropriate design options for client requests, developed design inspiration boards for upcoming projects.

- Assisted with preparation for and attended client meetings.

(Past) Awards/ Grants/ Fellowships

Dates: 2014- 2018

Description: Prestigious four-year scholarship awarded to students with outstanding academic abilities and a capacity to build relationships with people from different backgrounds.

Dates: May 2017 – Aug 2017

Topic: Composition of protocols for rational adversaries.

Professors: Adam Groce and Vassilis Zikas.

Other Students: Mark Schultz and Ira Globus-Harris.

Dates: 2017

Event: Crypto 2017 (conference organized by the IACR).

Dates: May 2016 – Aug 2016

Topic: Linear systems of divisors on networks.

Professors: David Perkinson.

Other Students: Sarah Brauner, Palak Jain, Forrest Glebe and Gopal Goel.