Tenure Track Position, Starting Fall 2015

The department is looking for a new faculty member who shares our passions for teaching, scholarship, and mentoring students. Further information can be found at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/prospective-faculty/tenure-track-2014-ad and http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/prospective-faculty/overview. Materials should be submitted by November 8, 2014.

CS Table: Browser Fingerprinting and Web Tracking

This Friday in CS Table, we will consider recent trends in browser tracking. That is, we will explore the ways in which people who want to know what you are doing on the Web can keep track of you. We have one popular CS article and one research paper.

Nikiforakis, Nick & Güner Acar (2014). Browser Fingerprinting and the Online Tracking Arms Race. IEEE Spectrum, August 2014. Also available at http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/browser-fingerprinting-and-the-onlinetracking-arms-race.

In July 1993, The New Yorker published a cartoon by Peter Steiner that depicted a Labrador retriever sitting on a chair in front of a computer, paw on the keyboard, as he turns to his beagle companion and says, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Two decades later, interested parties not only know you’re a dog, they also have a pretty good idea of the color of your fur, how often you visit the vet, and what your favorite doggy treat is.

How do they get all that information? In a nutshell: Online advertisers collaborate with websites to gather your browsing data, eventually building up a detailed profile of your interests and activities. These browsing profiles can be so specific that they allow advertisers to target populations as narrow as mothers with teenage children or people who require allergy-relief products. When this tracking of our browsing habits is combined with our self-revelations on social media, merchants’ records of our off-line purchases, and logs of our physical whereabouts derived from our mobile phones, the information that commercial organizations, much less government snoops, can compile about us becomes shockingly revealing.

Here we examine the history of such tracking on the Web, paying particular attention to a recent phenomenon called fingerprinting, which enables companies to spy on people even when they configure their browsers to avoid being tracked.

Gunes Acar, Christian Eubank, Steven Englehardt, Marc Juarez, Arvind Narayana, Claudia Diaz. The Web Never Forgets: Persistent Tracking Mechanisms in the Wild. Preprint available at https://securehomes.esat.kuleuven.be/~gacar/persistent/index.html.

We present the first large-scale studies of three advanced web tracking mechanisms — canvas fingerprinting, evercookies and use of “cookie syncing” in conjunction with evercookies. Canvas fingerprinting, a recently developed form of browser fingerprinting, has not previously been reported in the wild; our results show that over 5% of the top 100,000 websites employ it. We then present the first automated study of evercookies and respawning and the discovery of a new evercookie vector, IndexedDB. Turning to cookie syncing, we present novel techniques for detection and analysing ID flows and we quantify the amplification of privacy-intrusive tracking practices due to cookie syncing.

Our evaluation of the defensive techniques used by privacy-aware users finds that there exist subtle pitfalls — such as failing to clear state on multiple browsers at once — in which a single lapse in judgement can shatter privacy defenses. This suggests that even sophisticated users face great difficulties in evading tracking techniques.

Computer science table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Fridays at noon in the Day PDR (JRC 224A). Contact Sam Rebelsky rebelsky@grinnell.edu for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

Thursday Extras: Résumé Review Session

What: Résumé Review Session
When: 4:30 p.m., Thursday, 18 September 2014
Where: Science 3821
Who: SEPC, StuACM, CLS Staff, Alumni

Snacks, drinks, and casual conversation will be available in the CS Commons at 4:15 p.m.

On Thursday, 18 September 2014, the Computer Science Department's Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC) and the Grinnell College Student Chapter of the ACM will present a Résumé Review Session. CLS staff and CS alumni will be present to review résumés, discuss general approaches to résumé building for computer scientists, and provide useful ideas.

Bring your résumé, whether you think it's complete or a work in progress. If you haven't started your résumé yet, this is incentive to do so. And, even if you don't have a résumé ready by the session, come and hear about the kinds of things people look at when reading résumés.

CS Table: Social Robots and Autistic Children

In CS table on Friday, 12 September 2014, we will consider some recent approaches to using social robots to help autistic children develop social, emotional, and communication skills.

We will start with a recent news article.

USC Viterbi School of Engineering, "Socially-Assistive Robots Help Children with Autism Learn Imitative Behavior by Providing Personalized Encouragement". Press Release, University of Southern California School of Engineering. Online document at http://viterbi.usc.edu/news/news/2014/august-28-2014.htm.

We will continue with a broader survey of such approaches. The survey is long, so we will understand if people skim.

John-John Cabibihan, Hifza Javed, Marcelo Ang Jr and Sharifah Mariam Aljunied, “Why Robots? A Survey on the Roles and Benefits of Social Robots for the Therapy of Children with Autism” International Journal of Social Robotics, 2013, 5(4), 593-618, doi 10.1007/s12369-013-0202-2. Available online at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1311.0352.pdf.

Students will lead this week's discussion.

Computer science table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Fridays at noon in the Day PDR (JRC 224A).

Thursday Extra: "Sudo Open Sesame"

On Thursday, September 11, Ajuna Kyaruzi 2017 will describe her experiences as an assistant system administrator for MathLAN last summer.

Refreshments will be served at 4:15 p.m. in the Computer Science Commons (Noyce 3817). The talk, “Sudo Open Sesame: My Summer as an Assistant GNU/Linux System Administrator,” will follow at 4:30 p.m. in Noyce 3821. Everyone is welcome to attend!

Reminder: csstudents mailing list

Do you get all of your news about CS at Grinnell from the Web site, from class announcements, or from conversations with friends? If so, you may be missing out on some things. The department maintains a mailing list of folks interested in CS at Grinnell. In addition to the announcements you see here, the mailing list includes notes from the Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC) about events they've scheduled; information about internships, jobs, and other opportunities that the CS faculty have received and want to pass along; and a variety of other useful bits of information. I expect that Grinnell's student ACM chapter will also use the mailing list to communicate their many exciting new activities.

All CS majors should automatically be on the list, but it is also open to all interested students. If you would like to be on the "csstudents" mailing list, send an email to Sam Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu, and he'll get you added.

An Opportunity to Contribute Translations to Ushahidi

This semester, we are using Ushahidi as a platform in section one of CSC 207. Ushahidi is an open-source crowdmapping program that was originally designed for monitoring election violence in Kenya. Its design allows anonymous posting of geolocated events (with optional pictures), using Web, SMS, and more. Since its original design, Ushahidi has been used for a wide range of things, from mapping potholes in LA to burger joints in Germany to emergency response needs during some recent floods in Canada. We've even started a few soon-to-be-announced projects on campus using Ushahidi.

The folks at Ushahidi want to make sure that it's available to anyone. And so they are working on making sure that translations of the platform are available in most languages. Information on the translation project is available at https://wiki.ushahidi.com/display/WIKI/Localization+and+Translation+-+How+to. The list of languages and their status can be found at https://www.transifex.com/projects/p/ushahidi-localizations/.

Grinnell College CS has a strong commitment to free and open source software (FOSS), and we encourage our students to help with FOSS projects as they are able. If you have the knowledge to contribute to this translation project, please consider doing so.

Opening Computer Science Table of 2014-2015

On Friday, 29 August 2014 at 12:10 in JRC 224A, we have the first CS table of the year. As is the norm, our opening meeting will be a chance for people to chat about what they did over the summer and for us to make plans about readings for the year. If you have suggestions, please bring them with you or send them to rebelsky@grinnell.edu in advance. As is usual, we will try to create an appropriate mix of classic papers and new articles.

Computer science table is a weekly meeting of Grinnell College community members (students, faculty, staff, etc.) interested in discussing topics related to computing and computer science. CS Table meets Fridays at noon in the Day PDR. Contact Sam Rebelsky for the weekly reading. Students on meal plans, faculty, and staff are expected to cover the cost of their meals. Students not on meal plans can charge their meals to the department.

Congratulations to our graduates!

The Computer Science majors of the class of 2014 are:
  • Chukwunweike T. Abuah
  • Aaltan Ahmad
  • Andrew Lee Clark
  • Nediyana Vesseliova Daskalova (with honors)
  • Peter A. Dixon
  • David M. Fong
  • David Robert Hanle
  • Yasmina Lembachar
  • Maijid Fiifi Moujaled (with honors)
  • Jennelle Kathleen Nystrom (with honors; Alumni Association Senior Award)
  • Erik Opavsky
  • Hart Crane Russell
  • Prashanna Sharma Tiwaree
  • Colin Joseph Tremblay (with honors)
  • Benjamin Edwin Wagnon
Congratulations to all!

Video presentation: "Here's how we take back the Internet"

On Thursday, May 1, a video recording of a recent talk by Edward Snowden, “Here's how we take back the Internet,” will be presented. Mr. Snowden is a former system administrator for the National Security Agency who resigned last May in order to expose widespread violations of civil rights and other abuses of power in the NSA.

Refreshments will be served at 4:15 p.m. in the Computer Science Commons (Noyce 3817). The presentation, “ Here's how we take back the Internet,” will follow at 4:30 p.m. in Noyce 3821. Everyone is welcome to attend!

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