I am trying to implement the Efficient Robust Private Set Intersection using Additive ElGamal.

For this, from the client side, my inputs are $C = \{1, 2\}$. So, the polynomial is $(x-1)(x-2)$ which is $x^2-3x+2$.

The next step is to encrypt the variable coefficients which are $1$, $-3$, $2$.

Can someone tell me how to use ElGamal for encrypting negative numbers. If there is an example which one can run from Client and Server side, it will be really helpful.

  • $\begingroup$ Dr. Lecter, My question is more on the front if the coefficients of the resulting polynomial can be negative when (x-1)(x-2) is computed over a finite field? If not, I would like to know how to compute the product of the above polynomials? $\endgroup$
    – user11706
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


I use the notation introduced in the paper: The parameters of ElGamal are $(G, q, g)$ where $q$ is prime, $G$ is a cyclic group of order $q$ and $g$ is a generator. In the paper, the authors use "exponential ElGamal" such that they have an additive homomorphism, i.e., the message is represented as "exponent" of $g$, i.e., as $g^m$. With $h=g^x$ being the public key a ciphertext of a message $m\in Z_q$ is $(c_1,c_2)=(g^y,h^y\cdot g^m)$ and it is clear that by componentwise multiplication of two ciphertexts for messages $m_1$ and $m_2$, the additive homomorphism gives a ciphertext for $m_1+m_2 \mod q$.

Note that the message space is $Z_q$ and we are working with integers modulo $q$, i.e., the set $\{0,\ldots,q-1\}$.

Now how to handle negative integers $-x$?

There are two ways how you can see this:

If for $-x$ that the absolute value of $x$ is in the set $\{0,\ldots,q-1\}$, i.e., you have that $0\leq |x|<q$. Then, you can view $-x$ as the additive inverse of $x$ in the group $(Z_q,+)$ which has order $q$. This means $-x$ is an element $a$ for which it holds that $x+a\equiv 0 \pmod q$. Consequently, the value of $a$ is $p-x$. For example: Let $q=5$ and we want to know $-2$, i.e., the additive inverse of $2$ in $Z_5$, then we have $-2=5-2=3$, since $2+3\equiv 0 \pmod 5$, so $-2$ is equal to $3$.

Now what if the absolute value of $x$ is not in the set $\{0,\ldots,q-1\}$? For instance, how to handle $-16$ in case of the integers modulo $5$?.

We also can view integers modulo $q$, i.e., the set $\{0,\ldots,q-1\}$, as a set of representatives of the $q$ residue classes modulo $q$. More precisely, $0$ is a representative for the class $[0]$ of all integers having remainder $0$ when divided by $q$, $1$ a representative for class $[1]$, etc. If you encounter a negative integer as defined above, then you simply add $q$ until the value lies within the set $\{0,\ldots,q-1\}$ since this will obviously not change the class.

Back to our example, this means that given $-16$ you add $5$ and find that $-16+5=-11$, $-11+5=-6$, $-6+5=-1$ and finally, $-1+5=4$. Consequently $-16\equiv 4 \pmod 5$ and you can represent $-16$ as $4$.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Dr. Lecter for your response. It really helped me understand how to work on negative numbers. $\endgroup$
    – Sunil
    Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 23:16

The coefficients in the polynomial are elements of the field; when you expand the polynomial:


where $1$ and $2$ are field elements, the normal algebraic rules apply (because those rules are based on the field properties), you get:

$$x^2 + -(1+2)x + (1\times2)$$

where the middle coefficient is the additive inverse of the sum of 1 and 2 (computing both the addition and the additive inverse using the field operations)

Is the field element $-(1+2)$ negative? Well, in a finite field, saying whether a specific element is negative doesn't make a great deal of sense, however I believe that answers your question.


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