On June 24th a Dutch court sided with environment campaigners, ruling that the state has a “duty of care” for its citizens which requires it to “mitigate as quickly and as much as possible” the risks of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of failures to each strong international commitments. What might the implications of such a ruling be for other areas of social-economic policy such as the issues of privacy and citizen rights in the digital economy?
The history of human experiments often focuses on biomedical research and the gradual changes in acceptable practice and ethical considerations. But another class of human experiments that has had its own share of controversies is the study of human behaviour.
Internet Mediate Human Behaviour Research (IMHBR) is primarily defined by its use of the internet to obtain data about participants. While some of the research involves active participation with research subjects directly engaging with the research, for example through online surveys or experimental tasks, many studies take advantage of “found text” in blogs, discussion forums or other online spaces, analyses of hits on websites, or observation of other types of online activity such as search engine histories or logs of actions in online games.
With the ever evolving and expanding interest in, and uses for, user related data, and the ever growing amount of user generated data, criticism of standard practice around ‘Terms & Conditions’ (T&Cs) as means for gaining ‘informed’ consent from users for accessing and using their data is becoming ever more vocal.
A mere 25 and a half years have past since the birth of the World Wide Web, currently being celebrated at the Web We Want festival in London. Based on the tone of discussions at the festival today one could certainly be forgiven for coming away with the impression that in this short time the Internet, and the web it supports, has transitioned from a lawless virtual Wild West inhabited primarily by free-spirited, slightly anarchistic, computer geeks into a feudalistic patchwork of fiefdoms, each controlled by a multinational corporation that is rapidly building ever larger walls to shield its user/inhabitants from the dangers of the free and wild internet beyond their control.
Personalized information filtering by online search engines, social media, news sites and retailers represents a natural evolution in the development towards ever more finely tuned interaction with the users. Since the internet provides an overwhelming quantity of information on most topics, information overload has become one of the main concerns for users. Perceived quality of information services is therefore strongly determined by the ease with which the user can obtain some information that satisfies their current desires. For many of the most highly success internet service, like Google, Amazon.com, YouTube, Netflix and TripAdvisor, the recommender system is a key element in their success over rival services in the same sector. Some, like Netflix, openly acknowledge this even to the extent of awarding large prizes for anyone that can improve their recommender system.
As part of the “Conditions for Consent to analyze Social Media data” project within CaSMa, we have recently launched a survey to ask for your views about the type of information you would want to have before participating in social media research.
Willing consent from all parties involved in a transaction is generally accepted to be a corner stone in the foundation of ethical behavior, no matter if the interaction is of a personal (e.g. sex), professional (e.g. participation as research subject) or public (e.g. being quoted in the media) nature¹. And yet, when dealing with research, or any other interactions online, the mere facts that the interaction is mediated by machines appears to blur this fundamental concept in people’s minds.
Based primarily on the past success of the Apple marketing machine, there is a great expectation that the Apple Watch will give a dramatic push to the sale of wearable technology. For CaSMa wearable tech of the Apple Watch variety raises a number of potential concerns relating to the way in which the data is managed and the limited control that users often have over this information stream.
What use would a digital bill of rights be?
The Liberal Democrats have been a lone voice among the parties calling for a digital bill of rights governing our growing use of the internet. But is it the right solution for the problem in hand?
Surveys suggest that the bill should pique the interest of at least a few floating voters, with almost three-quarters of British adults in one survey concerned over unauthorised access to their private information online.
It’s been a busy week in the world of digital rights. On April 11th the UK’s Liberal Democratic party decided to put digital rights on the election campaign agenda by launching a proposal for a Digital Bill of Rights. On April 15th, the Global Commission on Internet Governance released a statement titled “Towards a Social Compact for Digital Privacy and Security” in the run up to the 2015 Global Conference on Cyber Space in the Hague, which culminated with the launch of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise.
On April 9th the first two iRights Youth Juries were held at University of Nottingham. In collaboration with the civil society initiative, iRights, and Prof. Coleman’s lab from University of Leeds, CaSMa will be running 12 Youth Juries to allow children and young people to have a say about their rights on the internet. At the Youth Juries groups of 10 to 15 participants, aged 12-17, are asked to consider, debate and share ideas about the future of the internet.