Abstract

Keeping communication private has become increasingly important in an era of mass surveillance and state-sponsored attacks. While hiding the contents of a conversation has well-known solutions, hiding the associated metadata (participants, duration, etc.) remains a challenge, especially if one cannot trust ISPs or proxy servers. This paper describes a communication system called Pung that provably hides all content and metadata while withstanding global adversaries. Pung is a key-value store where clients deposit and retrieve messages without anyone—including Pung’s servers—learning of the existence of a conversation. Pung is based on private information retrieval, which we make more practical for our setting with new techniques. These include a private multi-retrieval scheme, an application of the power of two choices, and batch codes. These extensions allow Pung to handle 1000× more users than prior systems with a similar threat model.