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Technology Transparency & Social Responsibility

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ella McPherson.

Digital technologies now permeate all aspects of our lives. Many of our activities and practices are computer mediated, supporting new ways of data processing, knowledge acquisition, and information exchange. With increased dependence on digital technologies, there are concerns about broad shifts and deep rifts in the society that can be caused by differences in accessibility of information and computation.

In this presentation we illustrate the need for a comprehensive and reliable inquiry into deployed technologies, the economic ecosystem around them, and the stakeholders involved in shaping them. That information needs to support a debate and informed decisions as public is continuously steered towards technology adoption by the commercial and the public sector.

We present empirical studies of two common practices: information access on the Internet via Internet Browsers and content sharing through microblogging by imbedding URLs into messages. Unknown to the user, these interactions are embedded into an elaborate and sophisticated economic exchange among advertisers, e-commerce sites, and ad service providers. That exchange involves real-time user tracking using third party cookies, leaving end-users completely disempowered. The lack of transparency in the technology design contributes to the lack of users’ awareness and inability to voice their concern or take actions.

This raises fundamental questions about the practices and principles of computing system designs. It puts the roles of CS and IT experts in the spotlight as professionals who are instrumental in creating technologies that fundamentally shape our modern society and the ability of individuals to take control and responsibility for their actions.

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This talk is part of the Researching (with) Social Media reading group series.

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