CS 590

Winter 2017

Tuesday 6:30pm - 9:20pm


Dr. Rachel Greenstadt
Department of Computer Science
Drexel University
Office: University Crossings 140
Tel: 1 215 895 2920
Email: greenie AT cs drexel edu
Office Hours: Wed 2:00-3:00 or by appt

Course Overview

This seminar course will motivate the need for privacy protection and introduce basic privacy properties such as anonymity, unlinkability or unobservability. We will then discuss how these properties can be formalized, modeled and measured. The course will provide a broad overview of the state-of-the-art in privacy tec hnologies, explain the main issues that these technologies address, what the cur rent solutions are able to achieve, and the remaining open problems. An excerpt of topics covered:
  • Data privacy threats and protection measures.
  • Privacy and web mining.
  • Privacy at the communications layer.
  • Privacy and usability.
  • Social media, mobile devices, and their implications for electronic privacy.
  • Privacy and government surveillance.


This is a graduate course, so students should be prepared to read papers and conduct research.

Coursework and Grading

This will be a seminar style course. It will mainly involve engaging with papers in the scientific literature (reading list) and working on a research project on some topic related to privacy enhancing technologies. Good projects will form the foundation for a research paper. The topic of the project and its parameters are to be determined through agreement between instructor and student. Please email me if you would like to schedule an in-person or phone meeting to discuss your project idea. Projects may be done individually or in teams of up to 2 people. If project is done in a team, all members will get the same grade. Single projects are expected to be as good as group projects.

A project proposal, final written report, and final presentation to the class will form the basis of the project grade. The project proposal will be due February 9. The project proposal is a document with a maximum 2 pages of text (I advise using a tight two-column paper formatting). Your references may take up an additional page. The proposal should have the following sections:

  • Problem Statement and Motivation: What is the problem that you are solving? What is the research question you want to answer? Why is it relevant and interesting? Why would the results you are proposing to achieve be significant?
  • Approach: How do you plan to go about solving this problem and answering this research question? What techniques/algorithms are involved? This section will vary highly based on the type of project you are proposing, but should convince me that you know what you're doing and that you have a plan for attacking the problem.
  • Related Work and Novelty: What other work has been done on this topic and how is it related to what you are trying to do? What other research papers are closest to yours? This section should demonstrate that (1) you have explored the space in some detail and you know what's out there and (2) your work is a novel contribution.
  • Evaluation Approach: How will you (and I) determine if your approach solves the problem? Negative results (demonstrating that an approach does not work) are acceptable here, provided that the approach was promising. In research, we shouldn't always know how things will turn out. This can be either theoretical analysis or experimental results.
  • Milestones: How will you get the work done? Present a timeline of what and when various work will be accomplished. If you are working in a group, discuss how the work will be divided. What is the simplest version of your project that you can absolutely promise will be done by the end of term? How do you hope to extend it if you have time?
  • Bibliography: containing the references cited in your proposal. Your proposal should have at least five references, cited properly (author, title, publication venue (conference or journal (if journal, give issue/number)), year).
You may be asked to revise your proposal if I believe it will lead to an unsatisfactory final project. In this case, your proposal grade will be based on both the original and revised proposals. The proposal is what I will use to evaluate your final project. Minor deviations from it are okay, but any major changes need to be approved by me. If you are unsure if a change is ok, just ask. Near the end of term, students will present their work to the class in a 30-minute (including five minutes for questions) conference-style presentation. At the end of the term, students will submit a workshop-quality paper, 10-15 pages in length, describing their project. Below is the grading breakdown:

Each paper will be presented to the class by one student. The reading list can be found here. In-person students will give a 20-minute conference-style presentation. The student presenting the paper will then lead the class in a discussion of the paper, taking 45 minutes for the presentation and discussion in total for each paper. Online students will be expected to either attend and participate virtually in the discussion via ECHO 360 or watch the discussion and write a discussion board post reflecting on points raised in the class discussion.

Online students will present their papers in either a discussion post (approximately two pages long) or in a posted video presentation of 20 min. Blog posts should summarize the main ideas and results of the paper, assess the paper's significance, bring up discussion points, and link to related work. The author will then moderate a discussion thread in which all students are expected to participate. Discussion posts will be due the Thursday before class at 5 pm.

Students will be expected to post comments on the discussion by the Tuesday before class at 6 pm.

The class participation grade will be determined by (1) Active participation in class discussions and (2) Online discussion on the course discussion board.