I am an Assistant Professor in the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University.

My research lies at the intersection of Big Data, security, and privacy. It draws on methods from computer, social, political, and economic sciences.

I am actively recruiting PhD students, postdocs, and undergraduates for our interdisciplinary lab.

News

  • August 2016: It's a big month for papers. Congrats to Ahmad, Sajjad, Chris, Jingjing, TJ, and Yabing on their IMC papers! All told, Northeastern got 7 paper into IMC this year. Also, congrats to Frank and TJ on their CCS 2016 paper!
  • July 2016: The CFP for the Data and Algorithmic Transparency Workshop is now available. DAT is being colocated with FatML and the Data Transparency Lab Conference in November at Columbia. This whole event is going to be awesome!
  • July 2016: Alan Mislove, Christian Sandvig, Karrie Karahalios, and I are plaintiffs in a lawsuit being brought against the federal government by the ACLU, seeking to overturn specific provisions of the CFAA. Christian has penned a nice explanation of the suit.
  • June 2016: I am now the proud recipient of an NSF CAREER award, which will support our continued work on algorithmic auditing.
  • June 2016: Our work on Amazon Marketplace is getting a lot of press coverage lately.
  • May 2016: Congrats to Ahmad on his Usenix Security 2016 paper! The paper presents a methodology for detecting cookie matching between ad networks, even when the process is obfuscated.
  • February 2016: We have received a contract to help the European Commission identify online price discrimination and other market distortions in their Digital Single Market initiative.
  • December 2015: Congrats to Zhenhua on his NSDI 2016 paper (Baidu TrafficGuard), and Le and Gary on their WWW 2016 papers (dynamic pricing on Amazon, and personalized online maps, respectively)! An auspicious start to 2016!
  • October 2015: Huge press coverage (more and more!) for our study of Uber's surge pricing algorithm.
  • June 2015: Exciting news about grants. We are the proud recipients of one of the inaugural Data Transparency Lab grants! We also received an award from the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund to build a public version of our tools for detecting online price discrimination.
  • February 2015: Our online price discrimination study was cited in the White House Economic Advisers' Report on Big Data.
  • February 2015: Our work on uncovering personalization algorithms is part of this weeks cover story in New Scientist!
  • October 2014: The CBS Evening News ran a piece on our price discrimination work, including an interview with yours truly. The video can be found here.

Contact and Links

cbw@ccs.neu.edu

Twitter: @bowlinearl

248 West Village H
+1 617 373 2177

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Research

Algorithmic Auditing

There is growing concern about the impact of powerful, opaque algorithms on our daily lives. In our work, we are focused on auditing algorithms: we use carefully controlled experiments to understand the data and algorithms used by companies, and assess the impact of these algorithms on normal people. Examples of our work include examining the "Filter Bubble" on Google Search, the geopolitics of online maps, online price discrimination, and Uber's surge price algorithm. Our ultimate goals are to make algorithmic systems more transparent to the public, and to develop tools that help users avoid unwanted or harmful systems. We are also actively collaborating with regulators like the European Commission to turn our research findings into practical policy outcomes.

More information about our algorithmic auditing research, including source code and data, can be found on the project website.

Tracking and Privacy

Tracking is ubiquitous on the Web today, and yet we have only the most basic understanding of who collects data about us, and how this data is shared with third-parties. We are currently delving inside the tracking ecosystem to answer these questions, including looking at how information collected about consumers in the offline world gets moved into online contexts. Based on our findings, we plan to empower users with tools to help protect their privacy. Our work on this topic has appeared at Usenix Security.

TLS and Web Security

The SSL/TLS protocol is a critical element of online security that protects everything from online banking to e-commerce to health records. However, recent events like the Heartbleed vulnerability have demonstrated that SSL/TLS is vulnerable to both software and human-induced failures. We are working with researchers at University of Maryland, Duke, and Stanford to understand the threats to SSL/TLS on the modern Web, and develop novel systems to address these challenges. Our work on SSL/TLS has appeared at IMC 2014 and IMC 2015.

More information about our SSL/TLS research, including source code and data, can be found on the project website.

Teaching

I am currently enjoying teaching Networks and Distributed Systems to undergrads. In the past, I have taught:

I spend an inordinate amount of time animating and tuning my slide decks.

Service

Recently, I served on the IMC '16 Program Committee, as co-Chair of the Crowdsourcing Systems and Social Media Track at WWW '16, and on the Senior PC at ICWSM '16. I also regularly present our work to audiences outside academia.