CAREER: Systems for Transparency in Personal Devices and Services
Steven Ko Principal Investigator
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In the current age of personal devices and online services, many "why" questions people ask are left unanswered. Questions such as "why am I seeing this online ad?", "is my application sending my contact information to somewhere else?", or "why is my device not lasting even a day?" are often raised but left unanswered.<br/><br/>The underlying issue of answering these questions is transparency. If a system is transparent, i.e., if a system provides detailed information that reveals its inner working, then we can start answering the "why" questions. For example, if an application or a platform reveals how the application behaves in regards to all the data read from contacts, we should be able to answer "is my application sending my contact information to somewhere else?".<br/><br/>To address the challenge of transparency, this project designs a suite of techniques and tools that provide greater transparency into how applications and platforms behave. Especially, this project focuses on three most pressing areas in personal devices and online services that desire transparency?personal data use, system behavior, and energy usage. For the transparency in personal data use, this project designs techniques to track personal data use across front-end smartphones and back-end data center systems. An automated instrumentation framework for smartphone provenance management and a service for managing provenance in data centers form the core of this functionality. For the transparency in system behavior, this project designs a tracing framework for the Android platform. Our design is tailored to the needs for mobile tracing such as holistic tracing of both applications and the platform as well as instrumentation customization for performance and energy. For the transparency in energy usage, this project designs an activity-based energy usage monitoring tool for personal devices. This tool raises the level of abstraction to user activities, providing user-centric transparency for energy usage.<br/><br/>This project provides a unique opportunity that can advance the state-of-the-art in multiple domains---applications for personal devices, data center systems, personal device platforms, mobile program and platform instrumentation, and data provenance management---with a focus on transparency. If successful, this research will benefit users, developers, researchers, and providers of personal devices and online services. The results will be disseminated through publications, open-source software, and real deployment.