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Potential Bx/MS Projects

University of Chicago undergraduates are welcome to complete fourth-year MS research projects as part of the UChicago SUPERgroup. In general, any projects that focus on computer security, privacy, or human-computer interaction are within scope. Below, we list some of our ongoing projects, which are just one starting point for deciding on a precise project. If you are potentially interested in working in these or related areas, please reach out to Blase.

Supporting Security and Privacy Decisions through Data

A main focus of the SUPERgroup is on designing data-driven tools that help users make decisions about their security and privacy. For instance, a recently completed project involved designing and testing a password-strength meter that gives users data-driven feedback. For example, rather than just telling users their password is weak, the meter explains precisely why their particular password would be considered weak. A BS/MS thesis project in this area could involve conducting a robust user study of an existing tool, the development of a new data-driven tool in a particular domain, or (even better) both designing and testing a new tool.

Retrospective Privacy and Security

As more and more of everyday life is conducted online, users accumulate many files and shared documents that are long-forgotten. For example, many users have files that they shared on Google Drive years ago that are still accessible. Some of these files are no longer relevant; others may contain sensitive, private information. Buried under an avalance of digital data, users often do not revisit the existence or sharing of these old files. BS/MS theses could investigate a number of aspects in this space of problems, ranging from characterizing the privacy risks and reminiscence benefits of this forgotten-about data, to combining techniques from machine learning and human-computer interaction to help users better manage this old data.

Perceptions of Security and Privacy

There is often a large gap between the degree to which users think their computer systems protect their security/privacy and the actual security/privacy guarantees these systems provide. A BS/MS project in this area would work to characterize this gap and (ideally) to propose and test possible mitigations.

Designing the User Experience for the Internet of Things (IoT)

Technology companies are in a landrush to connect all manner of devices to the Internet, but far less energy has been directed towards empowering users to do useful things with their IoT devices. Many of the most interesting applications of the IoT require that users express to their devices potentially complicated requests. We are working towards enabling users without prior experience in computer programming to express complicated logic to their IoT devices and using techniques in human-computer interaction to help them work through thorny problems in expressing their real-world requirements programatically.

Human-Computer Interaction for Machine Learning

In the era of big data, humans increasingly need to interact with machine-learning (ML) systems to take full advantage of current technology. Many of these ML systems, however, function like a black box. We are working to both increase the transparency of ML systems and to increase the bandwidth of human communication with interactive machine-learning systems. Projects on this topic can involve either conducting user studies or designing and building prototype systems.