# Searchable encryption vs Homomorphic encryption

For a search algorithm, what are the differences between using searchable encryption (SE) and using homomorphic encryption (HE) ? What are the advantages or disadvantages of using one of the above over the other if the requirement is a method for "searching"?

Does this only depend on the particular scheme/algorithm chosen in each of these types of systems ?

• My guess: Searchable encryption will be faster, because it can be built in a more specialized way than FHE. Sep 21, 2016 at 18:00
• SE might not offer enough for the search algorithm. ​ (For example, it might not allow wildcards.) ​ ​ ​ ​
– user991
Apr 14, 2017 at 11:18

Searchable encryption is a form of encryption where you can search for ciphertexts whose decryption satisfying some condition without decrypting those ciphertexts and looking at the decryption. The end result is typically a collection of ciphertexts.

Sometimes a secret key is needed to create a "search token" for a given query.

Searchable encryption for limited types of search is often quite efficient, but it tends to leak information.

Fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) is a form of encryption where you can do (a limited form of) computations on the decryptions of ciphertexts without decrypting those ciphertexts and looking at the decryption. The end result is an encryption of the result of those computations.

You can use FHE to do searchable encryption in various ways. This typically results in a very flexible form of searchable encryption that does not leak much information, but also quite inefficient (since FHE is currently rather slow).

They both serve a different purpose. Homomorphic encryption is for doing calculations on encrypted data (like adding up ballots in an online voting system), while Searchable Encryption is used, as the name suggest, to search for some key term in an encrypted record (like a medical record).

So, since your requirement is "searching", you will need a searchable encryption scheme. They are also (usually) a lot faster and more reliable then homomorphic schemes.