Professor and University Research Chair

Research interests

Photo of Ian GoldbergProfessor Goldberg's research spans a number of areas in privacy, security, and cryptography, focusing on privacy enhancing technologies for Internet applications.

In today's highly connected world, where data is so easy to collect, search, and transfer, privacy is of increasing importance. Privacy is more than just controlling the spread and use of one's personal information; privacy, broadly speaking, is about freedom, autonomy, dignity, and human rights. Privacy is about the ability to make one's own choices, discover one's own identity, and participate in like-minded communities, without undue influence from other individuals, corporations, or potentially adversarial governments.

Unfortunately, much communication today, particularly over the Internet, is quite unfriendly to privacy. When you send email, use a chat app, or simply browse the world-wide web, information about you and your actions gets disseminated to diverse parties around the world—and you have little, if any, control over it.

Privacy enhancing technologies (or PETs) aim to mitigate this problem by giving individuals control over the spread of information about their online actions. Professor Goldberg's research produces PETs and other technologies to improve the security and privacy of Internet users. One of his successful projects is Off-the-Record Messaging, which hundreds of thousands of people have used to protect their instant messaging conversations.

Degrees and awards

BMath (Waterloo), MSc, PhD (California, Berkeley)

  • Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies (2018)
  • University Research Chair (2012–2019)
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award (2011)
  • Outstanding Young Computer Science Researcher Award (2011)
  • Early Researcher Award (2010–2015)

Industrial and sabbatical experience

From 1999 to 2006, Professor Goldberg was Chief Scientist of Zero-Knowledge Systems (later known as Radialpoint), makers of security and privacy software for consumers and enterprises. There, he was responsible for research, design, and prototype implementation of privacy-enhancing technologies in a commercial setting.

Zero-Knowledge Systems' first product was the Freedom Network, based on Professor Goldberg's PhD thesis. The Freedom Network allowed subscribers using the Internet to maintain control over how much of their personal information was revealed to web sites, third parties, and others.

From 2007 to 2016, Professor Goldberg was Chair of the Board of Directors of The Tor Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) scientific and educational charity conducting scientific research promoting free speech, free expression, civic engagement and privacy rights online.

During his sabbatical in 2014–2015, Professor Goldberg was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall (University of Cambridge), and was a Visiting Professor with the COSIC research group at KU Leuven in Belgium.

Representative publications

Nik Unger, Ian Goldberg. "Improved Strongly Deniable Authenticated Key Exchanges for Secure Messaging." Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies. Vol. 2018, No. 1. pp. 17–62. January 2018.

Tao Wang, Ian Goldberg. "Walkie-Talkie: An Efficient Defense Against Passive Website Fingerprinting Attacks." 26th USENIX Security Symposium. pp. 1375–1390. August 2017.

Cecylia Bocovich, Ian Goldberg. "Slitheen: Perfectly Imitated Decoy Routing through Traffic Replacement." 23rd ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security. pp. 1702–1714. October 2016.

Nikita Borisov, George Danezis, Ian Goldberg. "DP5: A Private Presence Service." Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies. Vol. 2015, No. 2. pp. 4–24. June 2015.

Nik Unger, Sergej Dechand, Joseph Bonneau, Sascha Fahl, Henning Perl, Ian Goldberg, Matthew Smith. "SoK: Secure Messaging." 36th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. pp. 232–249. May 2015.

University of Waterloo
Contact information: 

Profiles by type