Network Operations and Internet Security @ UChicago

Papers on IXP Connectivity in Africa, Filter Bubbles Accepted to PAM

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Congratulations to Arpit Gupta and Xinyu Xing, who recently had papers accepted at the 2014 Passive and Active Measurements Conference!  Arpit’s paper studies connectivity and peering and what ISOC has been calling “tromboning” (paths on the continent that detour through LINX in London or AMS-IX in Amsterdam). Xinyu’s paper studies inconsistent Web search results using a tool we built called Bobble.

The abstracts of the accepted papers are below.  The final versions of the papers will be posted here shortly, and the papers will be presented in March 2014 in Los Angeles.

Peering at the Internet’s Frontier: A First Look at ISP Interconnectivity in Africa
Arpit Gupta (Georgia Institute of Technology), Matt Calder (University of Southern California), Nick Feamster (Georgia Institute of Technology), Marshini Chetty (University of Maryland, College Park), Enrico Calandro (Research ICT Africa), Ethan Katz-Bassett (University of Southern California)

Abstract. In developing regions, the performance to commonly visited destinations is dominated by the network latency to these destinations, which is in turn affected by the connectivity from ISPs in these regions to the locations that host popular sites and content. We take a first look at ISP interconnectivity between various regions in Africa and discover many circuitous Internet paths that should remain local often detour through Europe. We investigate the causes of circuitous Internet paths and evaluate the benefits of increased peering and better cache proxy placement for reducing latency to popular Internet sites.

Exposing Inconsistent Web Search Results with Bobble
Xinyu Xing (Georgia Institute of Technology), Wei Meng (Georgia Institute of Technology), Dan Doozan (Georgia Institute of Technology), Nick Feamster (Georgia Institute of Technology), Wenke Lee (Georgia Institute of Technology), Alex Snoeren (UC San Diego)

Abstract. Personalized Web search can potentially provide users with search results that are tailored to their geography, the device from which they are searching, and a variety of other preferences and predispositions. Although most major search engines employ some type of personalization, the algorithms used to implement this personalization remain a “black box” to users, who are not aware of the effects of these personalization algorithms on the results that they ultimately see. Indeed, many users may be unaware that such personalization is taking place at all. This papers take a first look at the nature of inconsistent search results that result from location-based personalization and search history. We present the design and implementation of Bobble, a tool that executes a single user query from a variety of different vantage points and under a range of different conditions and compared the consistency of the results that are returned from each query. Using more than 75,000 search queries from about 175 users over a nine-month period, we explore the nature of inconsistencies that arise in different search terms and regions and find that 98\% of all Google search queries from Bobble users resulted in some inconsistency, and that geography is more important than search history in influencing the nature of the inconsistency. Different from a recent study, our measurement also indicates that the influence of search history on search inconsistency is medium but not moderate. To demostrate the potential negative impact of search personalization, we also use Bobble to investigate more than 4,000 locally disreputable businesses. We find that more than 40 of these businesses for whom the negative search results are hidden from the local Google search result set but not in other Google search result sets obtained from other regions.

Author: Nick Feamster

Nick Feamster is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University. Before joining the faculty at Princeton, he was a professor in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech. He received his Ph.D. in Computer science from MIT in 2005, and his S.B. and M.Eng. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2000 and 2001, respectively. His research focuses on many aspects of computer networking and networked systems, including the design, measurement, and analysis of network routing protocols, network operations and security, and anonymous communication systems. In December 2008, he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for his contributions to cybersecurity, notably spam filtering. His honors include the Technology Review 35 "Top Young Innovators Under 35" award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, the NSF CAREER award, the IBM Faculty Fellowship, and award papers at SIGCOMM 2006 (network-level behavior of spammers), the NSDI 2005 conference (fault detection in router configuration), Usenix Security 2002 (circumventing web censorship using Infranet), and Usenix Security 2001 (web cookie analysis).

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