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Seminar:  What Are They Doing With Your Data?

Date:February 16, 2015 
Talk Title:What Are They Doing With Your Data?
Speaker:Augustin Chaintreau, Assistant Professor, Columbia University
Time & Location:12:00pm - 1:00pm
CIC Building, Pittsburgh

Abstract

Today's Web servicesincluding Google, Amazon, and Facebookleverage user data for personalizing recommendations, targeting advertisements, and adjusting prices. Users currently have little insight, and at best coarse information, to monitor how and for which purposes their data are being used. What if we could tell exactly which item - whether an email you wrote, a search you made, or a webpage you visit - is being used to decide on a targeted ad or a recommended product for you? But how can we track data in an environment we do not control?

In this talk, we argue that without web transparency the exciting world open with your data threatens to become a breeding ground for data misuse, privacy negligence, or even unfair and predatory practices, discriminating the most vulnerable. Furthermore, we prove web transparency may be restored by building XRay, the first fine-grained, robust, and scalable tracking system for personal data the Web. XRay diagnoses which clue (i.e. emails, viewed products) is being used as trigger to which outputs (i.e. targeted ads, recommended products, or differentiated prices). XRay is service agnostic, easy to instantiate, and leverage a novel and simple mechanism that, surprisingly at first, shows that as data in our web profile expands, the amount of resource required for transparency grows only logarithmically.

(joint work with Mathias Lécuyer, Roxana Geambasu, Riley Spahn, Guillaume Ducoffe, Andrei Papancea, and Theofilos Petsios)

Speaker Bio

Augustin Chaintreau is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. His research, by experience in industry, is centered on real world impact and emerging computing trends, while his training, in mathematics and theoretical computer science, is focused on guiding principles. He designed and proved the first reliable, scalable and network-fair multicast architecture while working at IBM during his Ph.D. He conducted the first measurement experience of human mobility as a communication transport tool while working for Intel and, as member of the Technical Staff of Technicolor (formerly, Thomson), showed that opportunistic caching in mobile networks can optimally take advantage of social properties.

He is now working on internetworking social network services through distributed algorithms and opportunistic architecture, to vastly expand how your data and the web deal with everyday objects and your social environment. An ex student of the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, he earned a Ph.D. in mathematics and computer science in 2006. He has been an active member of the networking research community, serving in the program committee of ACM SIGCOMM, ACM CoNEXT, ACM SIGMETRICS, ACM MobiCom, ACM MobiHoc, ACM IMC, IEEE Infocom. He is also an editor for IEEE TMC, ACM SIGCOMM CCR, ACM SIGMOBILE MC2R.