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Secure Multi-party Computation
Secure multi-party computation solves the following problem: several parties have private inputs; they wish to compute a function of these inputs without compromising the privacy of the inputs. An example of such a scenario is elections via secret ballot. Another is the so-called "dating problem", in which two people would like to know if they both like each other but each party is loath to say "I like you" only to be rejected by the other.
Another example, extracted from this author's academic experience, is the following. An 11-member Departmental Executive Committee is to vote on a contentious academic issue. The motion passes if 7 or more "yes" votes are received. For maintaining the secrecy of the vote it is critical that the actual number of votes is not revealed. That is, the Committee only wishes to know the result of the Boolean function F(votes) = "at least seven yes votes".
Solutions to these protocol problems exist, but can be costly and even impractical, as they are typically based on challenge-response methods. The "authenticated broadcast" feature of the Beacon can be leveraged to construct practical solutions to many of these problems in the online environment.
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