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Muhammad Ali

PhD Student

Contact

Office Location

805 Columbus Avenue
660 Interdisciplinary Science & Engineering Complex (ISEC)
Boston, MA 02120

Education

  • MS in computer science, Saarland University
  • BS in computer science, National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan

Biography

Muhammad Ali is a PhD student at Northeastern’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences focusing on social networks, privacy, and algorithmic auditing, advised by Professors Alan Mislove and Christo Wilson. Ali earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan and his master’s degree in in computer science from Saarland University.

Ali is a part of Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, where he deals with problems in data privacy and bias in data-driven algorithms. Previously, he worked at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems during his master’s studies in Saarbrücken, Germany, particularly on bias and discrimination problems in online ads such as those on Facebook.

Ali focuses on better understanding the internet advertising ecosystem – what kinds of data are being shared and how it affects users. He is interested in measuring and auditing algorithms in production for instances of bias and troubling behavior. He likes that his work is so relevant to internet users and that he can easily explain what he does to people inside and outside CS, like his family. In the future, he would enjoy working in an industrial research setting.

About Me

Where did you grow up or spend the most defining years of your life?

I’ve grown up in Lahore, Pakistan, in some of the central parts of the city. Consequently, I’m a bit of a desi food snob and take biryani recipes very seriously. I also very much enjoyed my time in Saarbrücken and sometimes miss looking at the hills – but I wouldn’t complain about Boston’s beautiful skyline either.

What are the specifics of your graduate education (thus far)?

I am currently part of Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, where I am very broadly dealing with problems in data privacy and bias in data-driven algorithms. Previously, I was at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS) during my master’s studies in Saarbrücken, Germany, where I worked on bias and discrimination problems in online ads – particularly on Facebook.

What are your research interests in a bit more detail?

Specifically, my current focus is on better understanding the internet advertising ecosystem – what kinds of data is being shared and how it affects the internet’s users. I am also very interested in measuring and auditing algorithms in production, such as online ads and personalization, for instances of bias and troubling behavior. I never imagined I’d end up working in privacy, but as computer science plays a major role in the public sphere and actively impacts people, the definition of privacy and the problem space has also expanded. It’s an exciting time to be working in the area.

What aspect of what you do is most interesting or fascinating to you?

I like the fact that my work is so relevant to everyone who uses the internet. I can easily explain what I work on to people outside CS, and even my family members!