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Falsifiability in Confidential Computing: A Philosophical Approach

June 6, 2:30 PM - 2:50 PM
Imperial Room A

In this session, we re-examine the nature of software and hardware claims through a philosophical lens, offering fresh insights into the realm of confidential computing.

Typically, a product claim describes a desired property of an artifact, such as "ensures data privacy during processing," "it produces no observable side effects," "it is rollback protected," and "it is a non-invertible function."

While the common discourse focuses on the "verifiability" of such claims (which, in most cases, is not technically achievable), we propose a shift towards evaluating their "falsifiability," drawing inspiration from Karl Popper's philosophy of science. This approach, where a claim's validity is tested by its potential to be proven false, has profound implications not only in philosophical terms but also in practical applications such as software supply chain, testing, formal verification, and enhancing transparency in remote attestation.

At the heart of confidential computing lies the challenge of asserting claims about software and hardware systems outside direct user control. Our discussion aims to establish a consistent mental model and terminology for these assertions, highlighting how the principle of falsifiability can be the foundation for useful claims, both technical and informal.

About the speaker

Tiziano Santoro

Tiziano Santoro

Software Engineer, Google

Tiziano is the Engineering Lead of Project Oak, a Google Research project that aims to provide provably private server-side computation by leveraging open-source code, reproducible builds, transparency logs, Trusted Execution Environments, and remote attestation.