Provenance as Dependency Analysis

James Cheney, Amal Ahmed, Umut Acar

Provenance is information recording the source, derivation, or history of some information. Provenance tracking has been studied in a variety of settings; however, although many design points have been explored, the mathematical or semantic foundations of data provenance have received comparatively little attention. In this paper, we argue that dependency analysis techniques familiar from program analysis and program slicing provide a formal foundation for forms of provenance that are intended to show how (part of) the output of a query depends on (parts of) its input. We introduce a semantic characterization of such dependency provenance, show that this form of provenance is not computable, and provide dynamic and static approximation techniques.

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