Arvind Narayanan / Uncovering Commercial Surveillance on the Web / 9.05.17

Arvind Narayanan is a professor of computer science at Princeton University. He leads the Princeton Web Transparency and Accountability Project to uncover how companies collect and use our personal information. Narayanan also leads a research team investigating the security, anonymity, and stability of cryptocurrencies as well as novel applications of blockchains. He co-created a Massive Open Online Course as well as a textbook on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies. His doctoral research showed the fundamental limits of de-identification, for which he received the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award.

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.

Talk: “Uncovering Commercial Surveillance on the Web”

Abstract: When you browse the web, hidden “third parties” track your clicks, searches, and behavior. This data feeds into algorithms that target ads to you, tailor your news recommendations, and sometimes vary prices of online products. The network of trackers comprises hundreds of entities, but consumers have little awareness of its pervasiveness and sophistication. In this talk I’ll discuss findings and experiences of the Princeton Web Transparency Project (https://webtap.princeton.edu/), which continually monitors the web to uncover what user data companies collect, how they collect it, and what they do with it. We do this via a largely automated monthly census of the top 1 million websites, in effect tracking the trackers. Our tools have proven useful to regulators and investigative journalists. Our findings have led to greater public awareness, the cessation of some privacy-infringing practices, and the creation of new consumer privacy tools. But the work raises many new questions. For example, should we hold websites accountable for the privacy breaches caused by third parties? I’ll discuss such tricky issues and conclude with recommendations for public policy and regulation of privacy

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