Verifiable auctions for online ad exchanges

Sebastian Angel and Michael Walfish

Proceedings of the ACM Special Interest Group on Data Communication (SIGCOMM) 2013.

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Distributed Systems, Security

This paper treats a critical component of the Web ecosystem that has so far received little attention in our community: ad exchanges. Ad exchanges run auctions to sell publishers’ inventory—space on Web pages—to advertisers who want to display ads in those spaces. Unfortunately, under the status quo, the parties to an auction cannot check that the auction was carried out correctly, which raises the following more general question: how can we create verifiability in low-latency, high-frequency auctions where the parties do not know each other? We address this question with the design, prototype implementation, and experimental evaluation of VEX. VEX introduces a technique for efficient, privacy-preserving integer comparisons; couples these with careful protocol design; and adds little latency and tolerable overhead.