Dr. Rachel Greenstadt Receives NSF CAREER Award for Online User Privacy Research

Dr. Rachel Greenstadt

March 25, 2013 — Dr. Rachel Greenstadt, assistant professor of computer science, received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for her research “Privacy Analytics for Users in a Big Data World,” which is a 5-year project with a budget of $494,747.

With this CAREER Award, Greenstadt, principle investigator (PI) in Drexel’s Privacy, Security and Automation Lab (PSAL), and her students are focusing their research efforts on users’ privacy on the Internet. As increasing amounts of data are being collected about users’ actions online, more sophisticated analytics are being applied to this data for various purposes. These analytics consist of machine learning and data mining algorithms that help users manage private information and self-presentation online. In order to develop these tools and improve the privacy settings on existing technologies, researchers need to understand what users actually know and care about while protecting their online presence.

Greenstadt and her students aim to collect data to determine what precautions, if any, users actually take to ensure personal privacy on the Internet. These results will help researchers better understand how users’ online actions correspond to the information they want to keep private, as well as provide awareness to the users about how their data is being used. Ultimately, Greenstadt and her team want to build enhanced privacy and analytical tools from the research results to assist Internet users.

Along with the user-oriented research, Greenstadt has many plans to incorporate educational pieces to the work. She will recruit Drexel co-op students and seniors to the team, providing undergraduates a chance to gain hands-on experience by building the privacy tools while her graduate students collect and analyze the research results. Greenstadt also wants to raise awareness of Internet privacy and distribute educational materials to a wider audience through regional hackathons, open data initiatives, and the Freedom Rings Partnership.

Greenstadt and her students have recently been praised for their research on stylometry, or authorship recognition, after developing two open-sourced tools, Anonymouth and JStylo. Read more about PSAL and its research here.

The CAREER Award is granted by the NSF to faculty who demonstrate the potential to be a future leader in research and education in their academic discipline.