Harnessing data loss with forgetful data structures

Azza Abouzied, Jay Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Forgetting, losing, or corrupting data is almost universally considered harmful in computer science and blasphemous in database and file systems. Typically, loss of data is a consequence of unmanageable or unexpected lower layer deficiencies that the user process must be protected from through multiple layers of storage abstractions and redundancies.We argue that forgetfulness can be a resource for system design and that, like durability, security or integrity, can be used to achieve uncommon, but potentially important goals such as privacy, plausible deniability, and the right to be forgotten. We define the key properties of forgetfulness and draw inspiration from human memory. We develop a data structure, the forgit, that can be used to store images, audio files, videos or numerical data and eventually forget. Forgits are a natural data store for a multitude of today's cloud-based applications and we discuss their use, effectiveness, and limitations in this paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationACM SoCC 2015 - Proceedings of the 6th ACM Symposium on Cloud Computing
EditorsMagdalena Balazinska, Michael J. Freedman, Sumita Barahmand, Shahram Ghandeharizadeh
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450336512
StatePublished - Aug 27 2015
Event6th ACM Symposium on Cloud Computing, ACM SoCC 2015 - Kohala Coast, United States
Duration: Aug 27 2015Aug 29 2015

Publication series

NameACM SoCC 2015 - Proceedings of the 6th ACM Symposium on Cloud Computing


Other6th ACM Symposium on Cloud Computing, ACM SoCC 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityKohala Coast


  • Ephemeral storage
  • Forgetful data structures
  • Memory loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Theoretical Computer Science


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