Know your caller – The SocialCaller App!

Getting a spam call in the middle of the day is not a new problem most of us face in our day-to-day life. One often wonders on the name of the caller and to why that person is calling you. Further, getting to know “who” is calling you is good (Truecaller), but the important question still remains. “Why” the other person is calling? Might be, getting to know the name of the caller is insufficient to allow the receiver of the call to make the decision whether to attend to the call or not.

Now, how do we know why the other person is calling? Well, one good medium to answer the question is – Online social networks [1]. During our research, we observed that many Indian users post their mobile numbers on popular online social networks as Twitter and Facebook to either promote the number in context of business or to stay connected with the friends.  Therefore, a tweet / bio on Twitter or a status update on Facebook exposes the real motive of sharing the mobile number.

Further, users make the posts public (posts with their phone number), thereby making the post accessible to anyone on the Internet. We deployed a mechanism to collect all such publicly shared mobile numbers in public posts, bio, or status updates. Currently our database has around 75,000 mobile numbers collected from Twitter and Facebook.

With this big and continuously growing database, we developed SocialCaller, an Android app (v2.3+), which provides the following two functionalities. The app is available freely at Google Play store.

  • · An online app – When a call comes, the app will show the number, the Tweet, Bio or status update associated with the number, the location of the user who posted that number and the social network where it was published. This service needs Internet connectivity at the time of call. We also store how many times a number has called up other users, and therefore how many times the number was queried in the database.
  • An offline app – This service is supported even when there are no calls. In case someone gets a missed call, or need to know more about a number, he / she can use this service to query the number and the corresponding details will be presented. This service needs Internet connectivity as well.

Please feel free to download this app from the Google Play Store. In case of any suggestions or feedback, please write to pk@iiitd.ac.in

Keep Calling!

[1]: Jain, P., Jain P., and Kumaraguru, P. “Call me maybe: understanding nature and risks of sharing mobile numbers on online social networks.” Proceedings of the first ACM conference on Online social networks. ACM, 2013.

“Expertise is valuable but most certainly not sufficient”

After finishing the last book “The Art of The Start” by Guy Kawasaki I wanted to read more, so went and picked “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande Thanks to Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla for recommending this book in their
recommendations. It was a completely different experience reading this book, this is
probably the first book that I ever read written by a Medical Surgeon. Below are some notes / takeaways from the book.
B: “necessary fallibility” — Some things that we want to do and simply beyond our capacityB: But sometime over the last several decades — and it is only over the last several decades — science has filled in enough knowledge to make ineptitude as much our struggle as ignorance.B: If the knowledge of the best thing to do in a given situation does not exist, we are happy to have people simply make their best effort. But if the knowledge exists and is not applied correctly, it is difficult not to be infuriated.PK: I was scared reading a lot of medical examples that author quotes, e.g. the one where he makes a mistake in the surgery that he did. But, I believe the Doctors (who save human beings) are to be fully believed and that is when the medicine that we take suggested by them completely works on us.

B: One needs practice to achieve mastery, a body of experience before one achieves real success. And if what we are missing when we fail is individual skill, then what is needed is simply more training and practice.

PK: I am reminded of the 10,000hrs concept from Malcom Gladwell’s “The Outliers”. There are some of my friends who don’t believe in this concept, at least about 2 years back when I had read Outlier and described it to them, they were not ready to take it, I don’t know about their impression now (you will know if you are the one I am referring to here).

B: But, really, does it take all that [an M.D. and a Ph.D. in public health from John Hopkins, referring to Peter Pronovost] to figure out what anyone who has made a to-do list figured out ages ago? Well, maybe yes.PK: :-)B: The author asserts, “Expertise is valuable but most certainly not sufficient” in solving complex problems.B: “Forcing functions”: relatively straightforward solutions that force the necessary behavior — solutions like checklists.

B: Author repeats this line / concept “You want people to make sure to get the stupid stuff right.” multiple times in the book, I think it is one of the strong takeaways I have from the book.

B: A great line to show that group work can be more productive / effective than individuals, “Man is fallible, but may be men are less so.” This thought is reinforced in multiple places in the book.

B: No, the real lesson is that under conditions of true complexity — where the knowledge required exceed that of any individual and unpredictability reigns — efforts to dictate every step from the center will fail.B: I asked a WHO (World Health Organization) official whether the organization had a guide book on how to carry out successful global public health programs. She regarded me with a look that a parent might give toddler searching the dog’s mouth for the thing that makes the barking noise. It’s a cute idea but idiotic.B: Giving people a chance to say something [introducing themselves, and mention concerns] at the start seemed to activate their sense of participation and responsibility and their willingness to speak up.PK: Looks like a great principle to adapt when unknown people come together to attack a problem or a situation.

B: Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. The are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything — a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and

important steps — the ones that even the highly silted professionals in them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.

B: The power of checklists is limited, Boorman emphasized. They can help experts remember how to manage a complex process or configure a complex machine. They can make priorities clearer and prompt people to function better as a a team. By these, however, checklist cannot make anyone follow them.B: What experts like Dan Boorman have recognized is that the reason for the delay is not usually laziness or unwillingness. The reason is more often that the necessary knowledge has not been translated into a simple, usable, and systematic form.PK: Another takeaway from the book for me was, how important it is to work with organizations like WHO to have a larger impact in the society. Thanks to NASSCOM for giving me the opportunity to work as an intern with them during my Ph.D. life, I believe, the experience and the impact one could have working with such organizations is humongous.
PK: As most of you know, my current area of research is Privacy and Security in Online Social Media, during any introductory lecture on this topic, I use the picture below. This is a picture from the incident where a Airbus A320 crashed / landed into the Hudson river and Jkrums tweeted about it “http://twitpic.com/135xa – There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.” This tweet is one of The 10 Greatest Tweets of All Time. Got to know a lot more about the incident than what I knew before and
how team work and following guidelines / principles can be so effective.B: The fear people have about the idea of adherence to protocol is rigidity.B: We’re obsessed in medicine with having great components — the best drugs, the best devices, the best specialists — but pay little attention to how to make them fit together well. Berwick notes how wrongheaded this approach is. “Anyone who understand systems well know immediately that optimizing parts is not a good route to system excellence.”B: The same can be said in numerous other fields. We don’t study routine failures in teaching, in law, in government programs, in the financial industry, or elsewhere.

PK: Just focussing on the domain / profession that I am involved, I have never come across any research or reports showing the failures in teaching. If any of you know or find any, please share it with me.

PK: I took away a lot of things from this book, but some concrete steps that I would like to try or see develop: 0. a good checklist for students / researchers (including myself) writing an academic research paper, addressing minute details of preparing the draft. I strongly believe that this checklist may differ from authors / collaborators to authors / collaborators, as mentioned in the book, but having some baseline can be very good. 1. a good checklist for event organization like a conference / workshop. 2. a good checklist for creating a usable / commercializable ideas / startups. I can see some of my friends running startup screaming now saying, there cannot be a checklist for this one 🙂 I am going to keep my eyes and ears open for developing such and many more checklists which can be useful for students / faculty / academia.

Among many new words that I picked from this book, here are a few to note:
– Asystole: Total cessation of heart function
– vicissitude: a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant

I have been Precog-ed!

It all began with an interview with two PhD students and I in PK’s office in April’2013. I was being interviewed for the position of a summer intern at Precog, a research group at my institute IIITD. I had no clue of what I was going to do the coming summer being a part of the group. Being  the youngest member, I often had to be guided.  But the best part about working under PK is that you are never told what to do, you are just shown ways which makes your work so much more exciting and challenging.

Having read all the papers published by the PhDs working at Precog  I realized how every aspect of Online Social Media and privacy was being thought over and processed in the minds of my seniors working at the Precog lab. The five LCDs at the lab showing live view of the systems developed at Precog, intense work atmosphere and intellectual minds pepped up to add to the ever increasing achievements of the group, it was almost scary. Yet everyone at the lab is always ready to lend a hand and my learning curve after joining the group has been steep. Working with the group I saw the lighter side of things eventually. After a long hard day at work, everyone had a well-deserved share of fun. I am glad I decided to stay.

The work I was involved in was based on the decay and growth analysis of activity on Online Social Media during events mainly Indian Premier League(IPL’13) and a few short-term events including natural disasters and  terrorist attacks. Research is not easy and research of the quality being done at Precog is a task in itself. Being guided by all these  amazing people who are a part of the group made the task easier than I imagined it to be.

When I look back at the summer of 2013 I cherish the time I have spent at the lab learning and getting inspired, working on Skype with Raghav (a sophomore at CMU whom I worked with),  the  ‘what’s up’ sessions which involved  giving updates of my work and getting everyone’s valuable guidance.  I have had too many amazing experiences to list them all together.

Most importantly, I cannot forget to mention PK, the heart and brain of Precog. He is the coolest adviser I have ever met and his skills and dexterity at work are almost mind-boggling. I came to know him as my Probability and Statistics professor, the role changed to being my adviser working at Precog and now I see him as a mentor for life. Thank you PK!

I have continued my association with the group and I am sure exciting and hard-working times await for summer of 2014. 🙂

Aim in life is to find the “meaning and change the world”

Thanks to Mr. Hemant Kumar, Visiting Faculty at IIITD for suggesting me to read the book “The Art of The Start” by Guy Kawasaki. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, cover-to-cover. You can blame it on my recent excitement and curiosity about startups (in various forms, research labs / enterprises / academic institutes). Even though the book is all about startups in the enterprise sense, I took away a lot of points from the academic / non-enterprise point of view too. While reading the book, I was scribbling some thoughts and making notes from the book, just putting them here for my own purpose. This may help you (if you have reached until here) get excited to read the book or just know the crux of what is in the book. The summary is only of the points that I got excited about and it has nothing to do with the topic or the views that the author has covered. I have asked some questions related to the views that I took away, which I hope some of you reading this blog entry can answer and enlighten me on the same.

Book: “Life is too short to work with people you don’t naturally like — especially in a young, small organization”

Book: “Investors are impressed by the suggestions of professors. In Silicon Valley, for example, a call or an email from a Stanford engineering professor will get the attention of every venture capitalist. I hope you did well in school!”

PK: How much of this happens in India? How many professors interact with industry (startup or established) in an “Advisory” role? How many industry folks know the professors who are working in the area of the industry? How many of the professors in India working on things that the industry might get excited about, which can become a sell-able product?

PK: One of the senior professor in India mentioned this to me, paraphrased “If you are working on the right problem, outcomes can be technology, startups, industry will be interested, etc., but if you are working on the wrong problem, the outcome will be a paper.”

Book: “I have done ok so far, getting us to this point. But if it ever becomes necessary i will step aside.”

PK: I think, this is such a hard thing to do, but I can see how strong message it can send to the investors / decision-makers listening. Not just step aside but let fresh talent grow, nurture it to become tomorrow’s someone. How much does this nurturing happen in industry / academia / government?

Book: Albert Einstien was on a train. He couldn’t find his ticket after searching through all his pockets and bags. The conductor approached him and said something to the effect of “Dr. Einstien, everyone knows who you are. We know the Princeton can afford to buy you another train ticket.” To which Eeinstein replied with something along the lines of “I’m not worried about the money. I need to find the ticket to figure out where I’m going.”

Book: “It is not about what you know, or who you know, but, who knows you”

PK: This is so apt! I am realizing the power of this [positive / enthusiastic / non-self-oriented networking] as I am growing.

Book: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. – Samuel Johnson.” “Make friends before you need them”

PK: Such a deep view, I don’t know how much one can follow this, but will try.

Book: “Why is that those who have something to say can’t say it, while those who have nothing to say keep saying it?” – Anonymous

PK: I also learned some new words like:

  • Mensch: is the Yiddish term for a person who is ethical, decent and admirable
  • Schmoozing: art of networking

bitly could do better!

Recently, we got to get our hands dirty on some URL data from bitly which comprised of suspected URLs that have been clicked by Internet users in October. We thank bitly and particularly Brian David Eoff (senior data scientist) and Mark Josephson (CEO) for sharing this data with us. We analysed about 269,973 URLs marked “suspicious” by bitly to understand how these links are posted and clicked. Figure 1 shows a graph of some of the most common domains for which multiple suspicious URLs were shortened using bitly. Domains like coupons4more.net , 123direct.info , lucinda34drejka.com and apprillss.info had more that 1,000 URLs each which were marked suspicious by bitly.

bitly uses real-time spam detection services like Google safe-browsing and SURBL. However, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of measures to nail spam bitly users. There exist a lot of registered bitly users who shorten spam links regularly. From the 269,973 suspicious URLs, we extracted 4,469 registered bitly users who have posted one or more of these links. After some data crunching, we found that 4,457 bitly users have posted at least 113 suspicious bitly URLs or more (Figure 2). If we analyse the past history of shortened URLs of these users, then we may find more spam links in their profiles. We plan to do this in future. These users are allowed to stay on bitly though they regularly post spam links which are also heavily clicked by other Internet users through various media like emails, blogs and online social networks.

We look closely at top 20 users who have posted the maximum number of suspicious URLs in our dataset and observed that the highest number of suspicious links posted by a single user is as large as 500 URLs (Figure 3). Shortened URLs constitute a large fraction of spam on Internet. Sixty five percent of URLs targeting social media users are shortened URLs [1].

We believe that if bitly suspends the registered bitly users spreading spam constantly or publicly marks them as malicious, this would discourage the use of bitly as a spamming service and deter malicious URLs being shortened and spread on Internet. We hope to see more features from bitly in future which would help to curb out spam and malicious links to greater extent.

We are investigating this data in more detail to develop more insights. One of the student is pursuing her Masters thesis work on this topic. If you are interested in knowing more or want to give suggestions, please write to pk@iiitd.ac.in

Did you tweet your BBM PIN? We know about it

BlackBerry officially released BBM for Android and iOS on 22nd Oct, 2013. And within 24 hours, the net download of the BBM app had hit 10m. People are crazily sharing there BBM PINs all over the Internet, most popular places being Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Several hashtags related to BBM have been trending on Twitter at various locations and this is what caught our eye – people sharing their PINs recklessly, seeking for friends, bragging about getting a PIN finally before the others or after a long wait! Do you think there is no harm in posting your PIN publicly? Then go through several posts on BlackBerry forums about users being spammed through PIN to PIN messages. Publicly posting the PIN is a definite invitation to spam.

When such a huge amount of BBM PIN sharing caught our attention, Mayank and I (with some inputs from PK) quickly used some of our old scripts and put together this website which displays the most recent tweets where users have shared their BBM PINS in plain text

There might be few false positives or a couple of encoding errors here and there, but we have tried to keep the errors as low as possible. Have a look at the volume of tweets with BBM PINs. In a span of less than a day, we collected about 79K tweets talking about BBM and about 24K (and constantly increasing) tweets with BBM PINs in plain text. Some users are even sharing their PINs via Instagram images and screenshots of their phone screen.

If you are interested in knowing more, please write to pk [at] iiitd [dot] ac [dot] in.

Moments for life! My first International trip to USA

Well, it’s been 2 months since I returned from the United States of America but it all still looks fresh as I sit down to put it in words! 🙂

It was about a year back that I learnt my plausible visit to the University at Buffalo (UB), NY and the news left me all afluttered! As much as I was excited for my first international travel to this beautiful country, my parents were equally nervous as I am known to be an over-pampered and not-so-independent girl (yea, majority including my parents think so :(). The most important thing for my travel was to get a passport! (I didn’t have one by then ;)). All the formalities for passport and visa were done within no time and I was all set to fly! The days passed by, and the excitement grew by leaps and bounds and it was just packing, packing and more packing. Finally, on June 7, 2013, I left my home at 1 AM with all the excitement and thrill. As the huge Boeing 777 was waiting for me, I bid adieu to friends and family. Within no time, I was sitting in my plane to get to my next humble abode for 2 months. As I lay down, enveloped with clouds, I suddenly realized that I am away from home for long 60 days leaving me nervous and anxious! But the very fact of freedom and independence shooed that feeling away! 😉 With a smooth continuous flight of 15 hours, rare did I know what was next in my kitty! As I sipped a cup of coffee at the large JFK airport, NY, it was announced that my connecting flight was cancelled due to bad weather. The next I got into my senses, I was running back and forth to get another flight and collect my baggage. I felt really low and disappointed to get another flight, 6 hours later and that too from a different airport. With all these glitches, finally I was standing in my apartment admiring my new room and the feeling of being in a new country altogether finally sinked in. Next was the big day, my first day at UB which was entirely a different experience.

The large campus at UB with breath-taking greens and multi-cultured people was difficult to capture in a frame. It took me nearly 2 hours to cover the whole campus. At UB, I got an opportunity to work in the Jacobs Management Centre (The word management sounds confusing but we worked in information and security! :)) under the esteemed guidance of Prof. Hejamadi Raghav Rao. Adapting to the new international setting was less of an issue, thanks to my project partner Rajarshi Chakraborty (PhD@UB) for making things easy (We had already met by then since he visited us at IIITD the previous month, lucky me!). Well, honestly there was no time to get comfortable since we had a deadline after 15 days :D. The work culture there was a little different than what is being followed in India. There were strict working hours from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM with usually free weekends. It was also different in a sense that in India we used to work together in lab (a noisy one! :D) and there I was given a separate room to work. Unfortunately, since it was a summer time, I missed meeting a lot of students in the university as most of them had gone to their native places. My research work was exciting and challenging and I enjoyed every bit of it it in the apt motivational ambience at UB. My project advisors, Prof. H.R. Rao in the US and PK, here in India, were a great support throughout. I learnt a lot of things at UB and had an opportunity of interacting with some great minds. I also got a chance to attend Western New York Cyber Security conference by ISecure, a conference for discussing the concerns arising in Information Security. Since the conference was near Niagara, I managed to get a quick short trip to the heavenly Niagara Falls. During the last week of my stay, Rajarshi offered me for a dinner at a Thai restaurant. Being a total vegetarian, I had a tough time selecting a dish for myself and end up having an eggplant (Brinjal, in simple terms, which I don’t eat in India :D). Quite an experience!

Apparently, this blog is incomplete without the mention of ‘masti’ and ‘mazaa’ I had in the US. I was lucky enough to have cousins there who helped in exploring cities like New York and Washington and visit some really beautiful places like Statue of Liberty, Madame Tassauds, Niagara Falls, Virginia beaches accompanied with loads and loads of shopping! I got a chance to witness the mind blowing fire cracker show on the Independence Day. I made new friends and did lots of chatting, dance and fun together. This trip also marked the beginning of my cooking skills (and end too for that matter :P), doing groceries and other regular stuff which I could have never imagined myself doing! 😀

Below is an image of me at Madame Tassauds with the waxed Big B! 😀
Overall, the experience was quite satisfying, both personally and professionally. I would like to thank my advisor PK and Prof. H.R Rao for giving me this wonderful opportunity. Looking forward to such exposures in life. Stay tuned! 🙂

 

My work, my pride!

Privacy in Open Government Data

As they say, ideas can be life changing… and an idea changed my life too (in a positive way, of course! :)).

It is amazing and satisfying to see how ideas turn into reality! It was an year back I, along with Mayank Gupta (B.Tech , DCE) started working on an idea which revolved around the lines of open government data and its potential malicious use. Information portals in the form of the e-governance websites (e.g., voter-id, driving license, mtnl phone directory) run by Delhi Government in India provide access to personally identifiable information (PII) of the residents of Delhi. Information like name, address, age, date of birth, voter-id, driver’s license number, and father’s name is openly and freely available. With the increase in Cyber security thefts online and increasing privacy awareness among Indian citizens, we thought it would be an interesting problem to encash. And Voila! It actually turned to be in consonance with our ideas :).

The project was planned in various phases / stages. The first phase was identifying the open government sources and going through their privacy policies to check if data collection was permissible or not. Next step was to write PHP scripts to start extracting the information. Within a month, we had approximately 8 million voter-id and 2.5 million driving license records in our local repository. We also collected data from 5 popular social networking sites viz. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare and LinkedIn. Public API calls were used to extract the data. Now the next step was to create awareness and spread it among masses. To make this possible, we developed a system which could highlight the public availability and easy accessibility of such PII. Hence, OCEAN: Open Source Collation of eGovernment data and Networks was developed and deployed on January 21, 2013. The input to the system is the name of the individual to be searched and the system returns a candidate set with same name and personal attributes associated with each individual. Interestingly, aggregation of data within the voter-id database helped in creating a family tree which connected people within a family. Below is an image which shows the family tree of Srishti Rawat (a random name, details blackened for privacy purposes).

The system is gaining popularity and has been in talks in privacy research community since its deployment.  Within a short span of time, 398 unique visitors have been recorded in the system (as on May 18, 2013). OCEAN brought lot of accolades to me, Dr. PK and Precog.

  • Article published in national daily, Hindustan (April 16, 2013) [pic attached]
  • Best poster award at IITK Security and Privacy Symposium 2013
  • Accepted poster at IBM I-care 2012, IISc Bangalore

I would also like to thank Swetank Kumar Saha, Sudip Mittal and Daksha Yadav (B.Tech, IIITD) for doing the initial thinking and simple prototype for this work.

Hopefully this effort serves as an eye-opener to general public and other stakeholders in the country.

A Precog Summer

The words “Bhelcome Raghav” caught my attention as I walked into the lab for the first time. Paridhi was sitting in her chair with a huge grin on her face, most amused with the arrival of a new intern. The two months and a half that I spent working with Precog went past like a breeze. When I look back at the summer of 2013 the first thing I am reminded of are all those amazing conversations I had with everyone I worked with. Right from the intricacies of decay analysis on social media to my supposed “American accent”, I think we covered everything. It took me a while to think of how I could best talk about my time at Precog and how I could make this sound different from other things that people do over summer break. I could say that I ended up doing some amazing research work with my friend Megha or that we are now in the process of documenting it in the form of a paper. But then it gets better. I mean what’s the big deal about having done research?  Isn’t that what research groups are supposed to do? So what’s different about Precog? I would like to think it’s the people and the way they work together right from PK to all the PHD students (Prateek, Paridhi, Niharika, Anupama, Aditi) to the graduate students and then of course my teammate, Megha. What’s most impressive is the effort they put in not only for their own work but also for each other. We often here phrases like ‘research across disciplines’ or ‘multi-department studies’ at CMU but you really have to hear PK talk at one of his presentations before you what they mean when they say that. It was very interesting to see how simple activities like Whatsup and presentations could help us work better us a group and then of course PK left no stone unturned. I remember skyping with him along with Megha when he was in Brazil, I in Daman and Megha in Delhi. Yeah, believe it or not I was in Daman, skyping with these people rather than hanging out on the beach.That’s how Precog works.

So let’s try and list out everything IIITD brought to my life this summer.

There was awesome research, great friends, a pretty decent amount of money, metro rides, free food and the chance to learn some real cool stuff.

I never went to college in India but if today I was given the option to study back home I would go back to Okhla with a smile on my face.

Raghav, Sophomore @ CMU

#TPBT: The Pin-Bang Theory

In the monsoon semester 2012, I took a course on Privacy and Security in Online Social Media. We had to do a project on a popular online social media. Pinterest, caught my eye. It was new, it was among the TIME Magazine’s top 50 websites of 2011 and then had close to 20 million users. Its growth was amazing; in a matter of 2 years it was well integrated with popular e-commerce sites like e-bay, etsy, Amazon etc. The big white-on-red “P” next to the blue bird and white-on-blue “f” motivated me to work on Pinterest.

Share Buttons on Amazon.

Without digging much into the OSN and the fact that project proposal submission deadline was like 30 minutes away, I proudly declared that my project will entail user analysis, locating spam / malware and also touch upon copyright issues on Pinterest.
The next time I opened my project, I got my “shock of the semester”. Pinterest had no API. Third-Party python-wrappers were all useless. I will have to scrape the whole network. Thought I was able to complete only a part of my project proposal in the semester, PK sir asked me to continue working. I was joined by Neha on the project and Prateek started shepherding us.
A crawler was created to push data from Pinterest to our databases. Starting from 5 extremely popular seed users.

The darker blocks had the primary data from Pinterest; lighter blocks had associated data collected from many different sources.

We collected a massive data set of 17.9 million user handles, 3.3 million user profiles and about 58 million “Pins” from 26th December 2012 to 1st February 2013.
We then began our analysis, some of our key findings were:

  • We found that the most common topics across users, and pins were design, fashion, photography, food and travel.
  • User, pin, and board characterization: We analyzed various user profile attributes, their geographical distribution, top pin sources and board categories.
  • Exploring Pinterest as a possible venue for copyright infringement: We found copyrighted images being shared publicly on Pinterest and almost half of these images did not give due credit to the copyright owners.
  • Analysis of personal information and malicious content present on Pinterest: Users were giving significant amount of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) voluntarily. We found numerous instances where users shared phone numbers, BBM pins, email IDs, marital status, and other personal information. We also found (and analyzed) traces of malwares in the form of pin sources by using blacklists.
Heatmap
Heat-map for user locations.

The final step was finding the title. So we called upon the highly imaginative and vocal members of Precog, who in a couple of 15-minuite sessions took us from nowhere to “Pinacolada”, “Pingoo” and finally agreeing on “The Pin-Bang Theory”. For more details have a look at our technical report here.

Here is the picture of the discussion (a memorable moment indeed):

All said and done working on Pinterest was indeed an amazing experience for all us ☺

Cheers!
Sudip, Neha, Prateek