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From Dylan Hutchison <>
Subject Re: [DISCUSS] Would a visibility histogram on a table be harmful?
Date Tue, 11 Oct 2016 19:42:32 GMT
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 still include such an index as an example, and if we did it could be
used by 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 the
monitor *by default*, but it would be a strictly useful feature if it could
be 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 topic he
> mentioned was the lack of insight into the distribution of data marked with
> certain visibilities in a table. He presented an example similar 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 a 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 correct amount of data? (there are many examples of
> questions which could be 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):
> ```
> PUBLIC: 20
> ```
> Technically, I think this would actually be relatively simple to
> implement. Inside of each RFile, we could maintain some histogram of the
> visibilities observed in that file. This would allow us to very easily
> report how much data in each table has each visibility label.
> However, would this feature be harmful to one of the core tenants of
> Accumulo? Or, is acknowledging the existence of data in Accumulo with a
> certain visibility acceptable? Would a new permission to use such an API to
> access this information be sufficient to protect the data?
> - Josh

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