This week was USENIX PEPR 2023. This was my second year attending; last year I gave a talk on shipping adblocking in Brave and was on a panel on DNS privacy. This year I was on the Program Committee, gave a talk on privacy-preserving telemetry and chaired a session on Web Privacy.

PEPR is interesting because it’s technically an academic workshop but nominally focused on engineering. To make it more complicated, the engineering in question is privacy engineering, and no one really knows what that means (but it’s provocative). A lot of privacy folks work in non-engineering fields like law, privacy policy and compliance, and the conference program reflects that interdisciplinary nature pretty well. This however also means that a lot of the talks are not super technical (though some are), which makes it even more unique for a USENIX conference.

PEPR is mainly about the people. It’s lovely being surrounded by folks who are motivated by and face the same challenges at work. My people! I also enjoyed the Slack discussions a lot; I write faster and more eloquently than I speak (courtesy mid-2000s MMORPGs), so the move to chat-first conferences has been a blessing. I met old & new privacy friends, and also got to meet my colleague Arthur IRL for the first time.

This year’s agenda felt more exhausting than last year (SO MANY TALKS), though my tiredness could probably be explained by my commute from SF to Santa Clara and early conference start times. At some point in the 2.5 hour one-way expedition spanning 3 public transit lines (4 including Uber, which is basically an essential service in this transit-forsaken land) for which I had woken up at 5 am, I found myself missing last year’s hotel bed, from which I had arisen and descended serenely straight onto conference breakfast. OTOH, the food was excellent throughout.

Can’t wait for next year!