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From Josh Elser <>
Subject Re: [DISCUSS] Would a visibility histogram on a table be harmful?
Date Wed, 12 Oct 2016 17:41:40 GMT
Thanks, Marc. Follow-on question(s) for you:

Do you think _any_ such approach should never be pursued by Accumulo 
(reading into your other replies about doing it outside of Accumulo)? 
Are the permissions that we have in place not sufficient to protect such 

Or, would such a feature be "OK" to you if it required some degree of 
additional manual steps by the administrator? (if so, what steps do you 
think make this acceptable)

In a similar vein, how do you see this broadening the scope of the 
Accumulo security model in an invalid manner? e.g. Administrators should 
never be able to see such information. Someone with sufficient access to 
a system would already be able to bypass Accumulo's security mechanisms. 
There are a number of vectors already were a sufficiently-credentialed 
individual could figure out this information (and more).

Ultimately, I see Accumulo's main security tenet as "users should never 
be allowed to see more data than they are authorized to see". Maybe it's 
my interpretation of that or the scope of how your think the proposed 
feature would function, but I'd be very interested in hearing more about 
what you think.

Marc P. wrote:
> My point for discussing implementation outside of accumulo is because I
> think it does invalidate a core tenant
> On Wed, Oct 12, 2016, 12:26 PM Josh Elser<>  wrote:
>> Again, can we please bring this discussion back from discussions of
>> implementations to security?
>> Does the fact that you three were discussing implementations imply that
>> you do not think this invalidates one of the core tenets (security
>> first) of Accumulo?
>> Christopher wrote:
>>> Keith, Russ, myself (and possible others) were discussing this at the
>>> hackathon after the Accumulo Summit, and I think our consensus were
>>> basically this:
>>> We need a generic pluggable mechanism for injecting arbitrary user
>> counters
>>> into the RFiles. We can then use these counters in custom compaction
>>> strategies, or other analysis. We can aggregate these counters at the
>>> tablet, and table levels, and expose them in the API.
>>> These counters could store information about visibility frequencies,
>> number
>>> of delete entries, etc.
>>> The interface might just be a Function<Entry<Key,Value>,Map<String,
>> Long>>.
>>> In the discussion, there were lots of variations on the theme, though.
>> So,
>>> the actual implementation could vary. But, having something like this
>> could
>>> support a large number of use cases beyond just the histogram case.
>>> On Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 10:06 PM Josh Elser<>
>> wrote:
>>>> Trivially. We could do something more intelligent like also cache it in
>>>> metadata (updating with compactions). Don't read too much into the
>>>> implementation at this point; it was just the first idea I had about
>> how we
>>>> could do it :). I'm more concerned with the idea and its security
>>>> implications right now.
>>>> In general, it seems like people are ok with it protected by a new
>>>> permission role. Do you have more to add, Mike? Was your comment based
>> on
>>>> your interpretation of how Accumulo works or more a concern about
>>>> implementing such a feature?
>>>> On Oct 11, 2016 21:29,<>   wrote:
>>>>> So, to get the set of visibilities used in a table, we would have to
>> open
>>>>> all of the rfiles?
>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>> From: Dylan Hutchison []
>>>>>> Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 3:43 PM
>>>>>> To: Accumulo Dev List
>>>>>> Subject: Re: [DISCUSS] Would a visibility histogram on a table be
>>>>> harmful?
>>>>>> Interesting idea.  It begs the question: should we allow any custom
>>>>> index at
>>>>>> the RFile level?  If RFile indexes were user-extensible, then a
>>>>> visibility index
>>>>>> would be something any developer could write.  That said, we can
>>>>>> include such an index as an example, and if we did it could be used
>>>>> the
>>>>>> Accumulo monitor.
>>>>>> The RFile-level sampling followed this path.  I would support further
>>>>> work
>>>>>> similar to it, though I admit I don't know how difficult a job it
>>>>> entails.
>>>>>> Bonus points if the index information could be accessed from iterators
>>>>> the
>>>>>> same way that sampled data can.
>>>>>> I can't speak to the appropriateness of visibility histograms on
>>>>> monitor
>>>>>> *by default*, but it would be a strictly useful feature if it could
>>>>> enabled via
>>>>>> a conf option.
>>>>>> On Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 12:20 PM, Josh Elser<>
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>> Today at Accumulo Summit, our own Russ Weeks gave a talk. One
>>>> he
>>>>>>> mentioned was the lack of insight into the distribution of data
>>>> marked
>>>>>>> with certain visibilities in a table. He presented an example
>>>>> to this:
>>>>>>> Image a hypothetical system backed by Accumulo which stores medical
>>>>>>> information. There are three labels in the system: PRIVATE,
>>>>>>> ANONYMIZED, and PUBLIC. PRIVATE data is that which could reasonably
>>>> be
>>>>>>> considered to identify the individual. ANONYMIZED data is some
>>>> altered
>>>>>>> version of the attribute that retains some portion of the original
>>>>>>> value, but is missing enough context to not identify the individual
>>>>>>> (e.g. converting the name "Josh Elser" to "J E"). PUBLIC data
is for
>>>>>>> attributes which are cannot identify the individual.
>>>>>>> Doctors would be able to read the PRIVATE data, while researchers
>>>>>>> could only read the ANONYMIZED and PUBLIC data. This leads to
>>>>>>> question: how much of each kind of data is in the system? Without
>>>>>>> knowing how much data is in the system, how can some application
>>>>>>> developer (who does not have the ability to read all of the PRIVATE
>>>>>>> data) know that their application is returning an reasonably
>>>>>>> amount of data? (there are many examples of questions which could
>>>>>>> answer on this data alone)
>>>>>>> Concretely, this histogram would look like (50 records with PRIVATE,
>>>>>>> 50 with ANONYMIZED, and 20 with PUBLIC; 120 records total):
>>>>>>> ```
>>>>>>> PRIVATE: 50
>>>>>>> ANONYMIZED: 50
>>>>>>> PUBLIC: 20
>>>>>>> ```
>>>>>>> Technically, I think this would actually be relatively simple
>>>>>>> implement. Inside of each RFile, we could maintain some histogram
>>>>>>> the visibilities observed in that file. This would allow us to
>>>>>>> easily report how much data in each table has each visibility
>>>>>>> However, would this feature be harmful to one of the core tenants
>>>>>>> Accumulo? Or, is acknowledging the existence of data in Accumulo
>>>>>>> a certain visibility acceptable? Would a new permission to use
>>>> an
>>>>>>> API to access this information be sufficient to protect the data?
>>>>>>> - Josh

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