Friday 6 March 17:30 - 20:30

Sir Ambrose Fleming
G.06 Roberts Building

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Celebrating the Inaugural Lecture of Professor Emiliano De Cristofaro: From Privacy to Safety: A Personal Journey Through A Decade of Data-Driven Research

Science & Technology

Celebrating the Inaugural Lecture of

Professor Emiliano De Cristofaro - Head, Information Security Research Group



The Information Revolution has helped advance society in unprecedented ways. Vast, easily accessible content has broadened our outlook on the world. Social networks have let us create and foster personal relationships. Advances in artificial intelligence are enabling tremendous progress for many complex tasks. At the same time, however, the Web has also enabled anti-social and toxic behavior to occur at an unprecedented scale. Surveillance capitalism has commodified personal information, and state-level actors have tapped into electronic systems to interfere in elections and erode their citizens' online privacy. This has prompted a multitude of challenging research problems around understanding, modeling, and countering privacy, security, and safety issues online.

In this talk, I will share my personal journey, over the past decade, doing large-scale data-driven research in industry and academia on some of these challenges. I will provide examples of how we can use a wide range of "PETs" -- i.e., Privacy-Enhancing Technologies -- to support a number of computational scenarios (e.g., in the context of information sharing, analytics, or even genomics) in such a way that privacy of users and security of entities can be formally guaranteed. Finally, I will cover some of our work on information weaponization: using concrete examples from our research, I will delve into some of the unique datasets we collected and analysis we performed, focusing on emerging issues like hate speech/harassment campaigns and modeling the influence that "fringe" Web communities have on the spread of fake news, weaponized memes, etc. If time permits, I will also discuss how the modern information ecosystem exposes researchers to attacks by the very actors they study.



Emiliano De Cristofaro is Professor of Security and Privacy-Enhancing Technologies at University College London (UCL), where he heads the Information Security Research Group. He is also Faculty Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute, technology advisor to the Information Commissioner's Office, and co-founder of iDrama Labs. Before moving to London in 2013, he was a research scientist at Xerox PARC. In 2011, he received his PhD in Networked Systems from the University of California, Irvine. Overall, Emiliano does research in the broad security, safety, and privacy areas. These days he mostly works on tackling problems at the intersection of machine learning and security/privacy, as well as understanding and countering information weaponization via data-driven analysis. In 2013 and 2014, he co-chaired the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium, and, in 2018, the security and privacy tracks at WWW and ACM CCS. In the same year, he received distinguished paper awards from NDSS and ACM IMC. In his free(?) time, he likes acting as a coffee snob and an anti pineapple-on-pizza radical, remembering (not without melancholy) the times he used to surf San Onofre, cooking (only pasta and pizza obviously), while finding it awkward to write about himself in the third person.


 5.30pm - 6.30pm: Inaugural Lecture:

  • Introduction to Proceedings  - Prof. Steve Hailes. Head of Department, UCL Computer Science.
  • Inaugural Lecture by Prof. Emiliano De Cristofaro: From Privacy to Safety: A Personal Journey Through A Decade of Data-Driven Research
  • A Vote of Thanks will be given by Prof. Gene Tsudik - UC Irvine


The lecture, chaired by Prof Steve Hailes, will last for approimately 1 hour, followed by a reception in the Roberts Foyer.  


 6.30pm - 8.30pm: Reception

Photography Notice: Please note that photographs will be taken throughout the lecture and reception. These will be used by the UCL for marketing and publicity in our publications, on our website and in social media or in any third party publication. Please contact the event organiser if you have any concerns or if you wish to be exempted from this activity. Please also make yourself known to event staff when you arrive at the event: [email protected] 


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