Fully-funded PhD scholarship in Privacy and Trust on the Web

As part of their efforts to enhance privacy and trust on the Web, many applications need to be able to determine whether or not a relationship exists between different entities. For example, it is desirable for web browsers to be able to determine that two domain names are under the same administrative control, such that cookies and other data can be safely shared between them. While determining these relationships might be easy for humans, it is impossible to do so algorithmically.

This project will explore approaches to the defining and enforcing organisational boundaries on the Internet. These approaches will consider the technical challenges, balancing those with user behaviour and expectations, and regulatory considerations. This will include identifying use cases, evaluating and measuring existing and proposed approaches, and developing and implementing novel techniques. Where appropriate, this will involve engagement with standards development organisations, including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Topics of interest
This project may take a number of different approaches, and extend to broader issues of privacy and trust in the Web, including:

  • the identification of use cases for determining organisational boundaries on the Internet;
  • the software engineering challenges posed by different approaches to defining organisational boundaries;
  • measurement of the adoption and enforcement of existing approaches, including identifying how they might be circumvented;
  • exploration of the human factors related to user expectations of privacy, and how these are enforced by the software that they use;
  • the governance models of different approaches and the standards that describe them.

How to apply
Informal inquiries can be directed to Dr Stephen McQuistin at sjm55@st-andrews.ac.uk. Formal applications can be made through the postgraduate research portal.

The deadline for applications is 1st March 2024.

Eligible candidates
Applicants must hold a BSc or MSc in Computer Science or a related discipline. Experience in systems and networks, including Internet measurement, is essential.

The University of St Andrews is committed to promoting equality of opportunity for all, which is further demonstrated through its working on the Gender and Race Equality Charters and being awarded the Athena SWAN award for women in science, HR Excellence in Research Award and the LGBT Charter.

The University of St Andrews School of Computer Science was awarded the Athena SWAN Silver award for its sustained progression in advancing equality and representation. The School particularly welcomes applications from those suitably qualified from all genders, all races, ethnicities and nationalities, LGBT+, all or no religion, all social class backgrounds, and all family structures. The School values equality and diversity across its workforce and offers a family friendly and supportive environment in which flexible working is encouraged; we strive to hold important meetings/seminars within core hours of 09.30 to 16.30. In addition, a broad variety of measures are currently being introduced to ensure effective career progression for everyone and to eradicate the historical lack of diversity at higher levels.

Funding notes
We have one fully-funded scholarship available, which will be awarded competitively to the best applicant. This scholarship covers all tuition fees irrespective of country of origin and comes with a stipend (currently £18,622 per annum full-time equivalent). Additional scholarships may be available from other sources.

The School welcomes applications from under-represented groups, and is willing to consider part-time and flexible registrations. The successful applicant will however be expected to conduct their research in St Andrews and not fully remotely.