Eric Zeng

About Me

Hello! I am a computer security and privacy researcher interested in making it easier for regular people to be safe when using technology. Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, where I am advised by Professor Lujo Bauer. I graduated with a PhD in Computer Science & Engineering from the University of Washington, where I was advised by Professor Franzi Roesner, and I was part of the Security and Privacy Lab. I also am advised by Nicolas Christin at CyLab on competing in stochastic endurance events.

My research is at the intersection of security & privacy and human-computer interaction, where I investigate security and privacy threats that impact end users. Some research topics I have worked on include large-scale audits of deceptive online advertising, uncovering interpersonal security & privacy threats in smart homes, and identifying barriers to encrypted email use by lawyers and journalists. I use a diverse set of methods in my work, including system building, qualitative interviews, surveys, empirical measurements, applied machine learning, and user experiments.

Throughout the years I have released several tools and datasets from my projects. I currently develop and maintain adscraper, a tool for scraping display ads from the web. Some datasets I collected using adscraper include deceptive political ads from the 2020 elections and what ads people like and dislike. I also developed and published a browser extension for collecting ads directly from users' browsers called Ad Ecologist. Going farther back, I also built a prototype of proximity-based smart home access controls, and a prototype encrypted email client based on Keybase.

I am currently interested in a variety of research directions, including:

  • Building infrastructure to enable audits of targeted advertising
  • Developing tools to help people understand deceptive patterns
  • Developing more usable machine-learning based tools for information security operations centers
  • Designing tools to educate people about online tracking and targeting


2024-01-05 Our study on explainable anomaly detection for industrial control systems will be appearing at NDSS next month!
2023-06-08 Our study on security analysis tools for trigger-action programming was accepted to SOUPS!
2023-01-25 I am presenting my research on bad ads at Enigma 2023! The talk will be available online sometime in February.
2022-09-27 Our newest paper, a field study of the factors that affect ad targeting and bid values, was accepted to IMC 2022! I will be presenting our paper at IMC in Nice, and later at FTC PrivacyCon.
2022-06-13 I have finally graduated with my PhD! I have already started my new position as a postdoc at CMU's CyLab, where I'll be working with Prof. Lujo Bauer.
2022-05-16 Our new paper on Anti-Privacy and Anti-Security Advice on TikTok was just accepted to SOUPS! I will be at both SOUPS and USENIX this year.
2022-05-12 I successfully defended my dissertation! I will be graduating mid-June 2022.
2021-11-02 Our political ads paper was a runner up for Best Paper at IMC 2021!
2021-09-30 We published a new paper measuring political ads during the 2020 U.S. elections at IMC 2021
2021-01-20 Our paper on user perceptions of "bad" ads was accepted to CHI 2021, read the preprint here