November 13, 2019

Privacy Preserving Technologies request for proposals

This Research Award is now closed


Facebook builds communication tools for people to engage with the people, activities, and businesses they love. Our family of apps helps people communicate in a variety of ways, ranging from direct person-to-person chat, group-based communication, enterprise collaboration, public engagement, commercial communication, and many others. Our tools are used daily by billions of people worldwide. Facebook is a leader in deploying privacy preserving technology, most notably for using default end-to-end encryption to safeguard communications in both WhatsApp and in Messenger “Secret Conversations.”

We also aspire to lead in developing new privacy preserving technologies. These technologies enable us to offer leading services while minimizing the data we collect, process, or retain. By integrating novel privacy preserving technologies in our products we aim to build trustworthy experiences that people love to use.

To foster further innovation in this area, and to deepen our collaboration with academia, Facebook is pleased to invite faculty to respond to this call for research proposals pertaining to the topics below. We anticipate awarding a total of five research awards, each in the $50,000–100,000 range. Payment will be made to the applicant’s host university as an unrestricted gift.

As part of the award, the winner (maximum two authors) will be invited to the 2020 Privacy Faculty Summit at our Menlo Park headquarters. The winner will also be allowed to invite one PhD student to attend the summit. Air/travel and hotel expenses will be paid for and arranged by Facebook and are in addition to the research award.

Winners have been announced

Application Dates

Notifications were sent by email to selected applicants in May 2020.

  • Launch Date November 13, 2019
  • Deadline December 20, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. AOE
  • Winners Announced May 12, 2020

Areas of Interest

This year, we are specifically interested in proposals that fall into the following categories:

  • Technologies to support people’s privacy rights (access, deletion, portability, and so on)
  • Privacy preserving analytics and machine learning
  • Data anonymization and quantification of privacy leaks
  • Private, high-integrity, client-side services (end-to-end encryption, blockchains, and so on)
  • Privacy-by-design methodologies, technologies, toolkits, and frameworks
  • Encrypted data processing
  • Techniques to proactively discover and surface privacy violations in complex applications
  • Application auditing methodologies to assure transparency, privacy, and compliance

We are interested in both theoretical, foundational work and work motivated by and focused on specific real-world problems.


Proposals should include

  • A summary of the project (1-2 pages) explaining the area of focus, a description of techniques, any relevant prior work, and a timeline with milestones and expected outcomes.
  • A draft budget description (1 page) including an approximate cost of the award and explanation of how funds would be spent.
  • Curriculum Vitae for all project participants.
  • Organization details; this will include tax information and administrative contact details


  • Awards must comply with applicable US and international laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Applicants must be current full-time faculty at an accredited academic institution that awards research degrees to PhD students.
  • Applicants must be the Principal Investigator on any resulting award.

Award Recipients

Alexandra Boldyreva

Georgia Institute of Technology

RFP: Privacy Preserving Tech - 2020

Danfeng Zhang

Pennsylvania State University

RFP: Privacy Preserving Tech - 2020

Foteini Baldimtsi

George Mason University

RFP: Privacy Preserving Tech - 2020

Manos Athanassoulis

Boston University

RFP: Privacy Preserving Tech - 2020

Michael Backes

CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security

RFP: Privacy Preserving Tech - 2020

Yang Wang

University of Illinois

RFP: Privacy Preserving Tech - 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

Most of the RFP awards are an unrestricted gift. Because of its nature, salary/headcount could be included as part of the budget presented for the RFP. Since the award/gift is paid to the university, they will be able to allocate the funds to that winning project and have the freedom to use as they need. All Facebook teams are different and have different expectations concerning deliverables, timing, etc. Long story short – yes, money for salary/headcount can be included. It’s up to the reviewing team to determine if the percentage spend is reasonable and how that relates to the decision if the project is a winner or not.

We are flexible, but ideally proposals submitted are single-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt font.

Research awards are given year-round and funding years/duration can vary by proposal.

Yes, award funds can be used to cover a researcher’s salary.

Budgets can vary by institution and geography, but overall research funds ideally cover the following: graduate or post-graduate students’ employment/tuition; other research costs (e.g., equipment, laptops, incidental costs); travel associated with the research (conferences, workshops, summits, etc.); overhead for research gifts is limited to 5%.

One person will need to be the primary PI (i.e., the submitter that will receive all email notifications); however, you’ll be given the opportunity to list collaborators/co-PIs in the submission form. Please note in your budget breakdown how the funds should be dispersed amongst PIs.