Ghanavati receives Google Privacy-Related Faculty Research Award

A UMaine computer scientist has been awarded a grant by Google to better understand how software developers deduce and implement privacy requirements when designing mobile phone applications.

Sepideh Ghanavati, assistant professor in the School of Computing and Information Science, is the recipient of a $70,000 Google Privacy-Related Faculty Research Award for a project titled “Evaluating Developers’ Privacy Comprehension During Mobile Applications Development Process.” Ghanavati will collaborate with Sai Teja Peddinti, privacy research scientist in the Infrastructure Security and Privacy group at Google.

Ghanavati’s project will study how developers understand implementing privacy requirements in their apps. Developers of apps for the Android platform are required to ensure that their applications protect users’ privacy and comply with regulations and best practices. Ghanavati and Peddinti will evaluate how developers actually understand and implement those requirements by leveraging machine learning, human-computer interaction and software engineering techniques. Ghanavati intends to employ user studies, analysis of Stack Overflow and privacy breach reports to develop a taxonomy and a dataset of common privacy challenges and use them in order to provide engineering solutions.

For Ghanavati, this work is particularly important because such a dataset will help create better techniques for developing privacy-preserving applications. Ghanavati explains: “Developing a taxonomy and dataset is important to follow-up research that could develop techniques, algorithms and automated approaches to help developers overcome these challenges we’re identifying.”

Google’s Privacy-Related Faculty Research Awards are one-year awards structured as unrestricted gifts to universities to support the work of world-class full-time faculty members at universities around the world. They are awarded once a year after a competitive proposal process; project proposals are reviewed by a group of Google researchers to judge their intellectual merits, their feasibility, and their relevance to Google projects. 

This year’s Google Privacy-Related Faculty Research Award winners were announced on Oct. 20.

Contact: Brian Jansen,