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Reverse-engineering online tracking for privacy, transparency, and accountability

December 8, 2014 -
4:00pm to 5:00pm
32-G449 KIVA
Speaker Name: 
Arvind Narayanan, Assistant Professor, Princeton University
When we browse the web, data about us is collected, traded and put to use in creative ways. The utter lack of transparency makes web tracking problematic. The Princeton Web Transparency and Accountability Project ( aims to reverse engineer online data collection and data-driven personalization. The goal is correct market failures in online privacy, foster accountability for privacy, security, and ethical failures, and enable a more informed public debate. 
Our central thesis is that a single modular platform can enable a variety of experiments to reverse engineer privacy-impacting practices. In these experiments an automated, simulated user (i.e., a bot) browses the web; we monitor and analyze flows of personal data and also test how sites personalize themselves to these bots. In this talk I’ll describe the technical capabilities of our platform, the studies we’ve carried out so far, the challenges ahead, and how you can utilize the platform for your own research.
Arvind Narayanan (Ph.D. 2009) is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Princeton. He studies information privacy and security and has a side-interest in technology policy. His research has shown that data anonymization is broken in fundamental ways, for which he jointly received the 2008 Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award. Narayanan leads the Princeton Web Transparency and Accountability project that aims to uncover how companies are collecting and using our personal information. He also studies the security and stability of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Narayanan is an affiliated faculty member at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton and an affiliate scholar at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society. You can follow him on Twitter at @random_walker. Additional Bio: