TEC Talks

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TEC Talks started out in spring 2021 as a virtual live event series on the theme of “Misinformation and Disinformation.” We followed that up in the fall with seven events on “Technology and Power.”

Many thanks to the Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab and ThinkND for partnering with us on these first two series of talks. You can access videos of all of them below.

Now we’re doing something new: TEC Talks, the podcast.

Hosted by Kirsten Martin, director of the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND TEC), TEC Talks will feature conversations on a broad range of topics in technology ethics with guests from both inside and beyond academia. Each episode will take one article, idea, case, or discovery and examine the larger implications for the field of tech ethics, with our goal being to make this work accessible to a wide audience. We know your time is valuable, so episodes will be 15–30 minutes long.

The TEC Talks podcast launched in March 2022. Episodes are published every third Wednesday and available on this page and wherever you get your podcasts.

Podcast
Live Event Series 2: Technology and Power
Live Event Series 1: Misinformation and Disinformation

Podcast

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4. An Evolutionary Case for Better Privacy Regulations (June 22, 2022)

Guest: Laura Brandimarte (University of Arizona)

Episode and Notes

 

Host Kirsten Martin is joined by Laura Brandimarte, an assistant professor of management information systems at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. Holding a Ph.D. in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University, she specializes in privacy and behavioral economics, including the psychology of self-disclosure and the social dynamics of privacy decision-making and information-sharing.

Laura came on the show to talk about a paper she coauthored with Alessandro Acquisti (Carnegie Mellon University) and Jeff Hancock (Stanford University) titled “How privacy’s past may shape its future,” which appeared in January in Science magazine.

Referencing work that points to the notion of privacy being present throughout human history, Laura explains that privacy management is about our ability to moderate what we share and with whom, not never sharing anything. But she notes that the strategies humans have developed evolutionarily to manage our privacy—e.g., having a conversation in hushed tones so no one but the person we’re speaking to hears—often don’t have an online equivalent and thus aren’t helpful in that context.

Laura also discusses why an overreliance on the “notice and consent” approach to privacy—typified by a website presenting users with a long set of terms and conditions when they go to use it—makes it difficult to impossible for people to arrive at the best privacy decisions for themselves. Drawing on an analogy from the automotive industry and citing a lack of incentives for data holders to make changes to how they handle that data, she and her coauthors argue for regulations that move beyond notice and consent and shift responsibility for sound privacy practices to those gathering our data in the first place.

Episode Links

At the end of each episode, Kirsten asks for a recommendation about another scholar in tech ethics whose work our guest is particularly excited about. Laura highlighted Joy Buolamwini, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, an organization devoted to equitable and accountable AI.

3. Not the (Speech) Chilling Effect We Think (June 1, 2022)

Guest: Suneal Bedi (Indiana University)

Episode and Notes

 

Host Kirsten Martin is joined by Suneal Bedi, an assistant professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Suneal’s areas of expertise include intellectual property, marketing law/ethics, brand strategy, and the First Amendment. Holding a joint Ph.D. in marketing and Ph.D. in business ethics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as well as a J.D. from Harvard Law School, he employs multiple methods in his research to answer business-relevant questions that sit at the intersection of law, marketing, and public policy.

Suneal came on the show to talk about a paper he recently published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology titled “The Myth of the Chilling Effect.”

He and Kirsten started by talking about how the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—the provision that protects tech companies from being liable for user content posted on their platforms—are routinely misapplied in debates about content moderation on social media and elsewhere.

Suneal then explained the study he conducted where he asked participants to write negative reviews of dining experiences to test whether putting restrictions on what people can post online does in fact have what’s known as a “chilling effect,” or the consequence of deterring speech in unintended ways. He did find evidence of this effect, but not in terms of the substance of what people were saying; rather, it tended to make their tone slightly more positive. He and Kirsten also discussed how a lack of content moderation can have its own type of chilling effect by excluding marginalized groups who may not feel comfortable on the platform.

Episode Links

At the end of each episode, Kirsten asks for a recommendation about another scholar (or several) in tech ethics whose work our guest is particularly excited about. In addition to saying he’s interested in seeing what happens with Twitter in light of the Elon Musk news—a topic Kirsten has been quoted on widely in recent weeks, including in this story from CNN—Suneal cited the work of George Washington University’s Vikram Bhargava, the guest for the first episode of TEC Talks (episode available below).

2. Don’t Take the Data and Run (May 11, 2022)

Guest: Katie Shilton (University of Maryland, College Park)

Episode and Notes

 

Host Kirsten Martin is joined by Katie Shilton, an associate professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she leads the Ethics and Values in Design (EViD) Lab. Her research focuses on ethics and policy for the design of information technologies, systems, and collections, and she is a co-principal investigator of the PERVADE project, a multi-campus collaboration focused on big data research ethics funded by the National Science Foundation.

Katie came on the show to talk about a paper she recently coauthored with the members of the PERVADE team titled “Excavating awareness and power in data science: A manifesto for trustworthy pervasive data research,” which appeared in Big Data & Society.

PERVADE was created to tackle unanswered empirical questions facing researchers working with big data—such as that gathered from social media platforms—and this paper in particular was a first attempt at making recommendations based on input from three main stakeholder groups: the researchers themselves, institutional review boards (IRBs) and other regulators, and social media users.

Katie and Kirsten talked about how the ethical challenges of working with big data aren’t actually due to its bigness; rather, they arise because of how pervasive data collection has become. Katie explained how the traditional lab-based model for conducting ethical research doesn’t translate well to the big data space, discussing what researchers might instead learn from anthropologists, specifically ethnographers. Kirsten then brought up the applicability of this mindset not only in academia but also in corporate research environments.

Oh, and if you listen closely, you’ll catch a cameo from one of Kirsten’s dogs who was determined to play tug during the interview.

Episode Links

At the end of each episode, Kirsten asks for a recommendation about another scholar (or several) in tech ethics whose work our guest is particularly excited about. Katie highlighted three:

1. Social Media Addiction: Adding Insult to Injury (April 20, 2022)

Guest: Vikram Bhargava (George Washington University)

Episode and Notes

 

Host Kirsten Martin is joined by Vikram Bhargava, an assistant professor of strategic management and public policy at the George Washington University School of Business. His research focuses on technology addiction, mass social media outrage, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, the future of work, and other topics related to digital technology policy.

Vik came on the show to talk about a paper he recently coauthored with Manuel Velasquez of Santa Clara University titled “Ethics of the Attention Economy: The Problem of Social Media Addiction,” which appeared in Business Ethics Quarterly. In it, they “argue that addicting users to social media is impermissible because it unjustifiably harms users in a way that is both demeaning and objectionably exploitative.”

Vik talked with Kirsten about how social media addiction raises ethical issues we haven’t seen before with other types of addictive products, using his morning cup of coffee to illustrate the distinction and what in the paper he and Velasquez call the “adding insult to injury argument.” Vik also discussed how the picture is further complicated by the fact that a social media account is routinely the most straightforward way to access certain social goods—e.g., job search websites—and his ideas on possible ways forward given that social media does provide benefits to society, as well.

Episode Links

At the end of each episode, Kirsten asks for a recommendation about another scholar in tech ethics whose work our guest is particularly excited about. Vik highlighted Dartmouth’s Sonu Bedi, specifically his research on race-based filters in dating app algorithms.

Privacy Statement

We use the podcast hosting service Buzzsprout to publish TEC Talks. The Buzzsprout privacy policy includes information on how it approaches podcast listener privacy.

The platform/app through which you choose to listen to this or any other podcast may also make certain listener data available to podcast publishers. For more information, consult the terms of service of the app you use.

Live Event Series 2

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7. Privacy and Power (Dec. 6, 2021)

Guests: Albert Fox Cahn (Surveillance Technology Oversight Project), Carissa Véliz (University of Oxford)

Video

The proliferation of smart devices—not just phones but TVs, home security cameras, and more—has led to the collection of personal data on an unprecedented scale. This erosion of privacy has far-reaching implications for our society, political economy, and justice system, but there may be ways for individuals and communities to take control of their data and reclaim their privacy.

We explored the current challenges and potential solutions around data collection and privacy with Albert Fox Cahn, executive director and founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, and Carissa Véliz, associate professor in philosophy at the Institute for Ethics in AI at the University of Oxford.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

6. Workers and Power (Nov. 22, 2021)

Guests: Ali Alkhatib (University of San Francisco), Karen Levy (Cornell University)

Video

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on essential workers: grocery workers who keep shelves stocked with food and cleaning supplies, truckers who transport goods across the country, and sanitation workers who maintain city streets and sidewalks. Increasingly, these workers are subjected to workplace surveillance technologies that purport to increase efficiency by following their routes, precisely timing their breaks, and making just-in-time shift changes.

This edition of TEC Talks welcomed Ali Alkhatib, director of the Center for Applied Data Ethics at the University of San Francisco, and Karen Levy, assistant professor at the School of Information Science at Cornell University, to discuss the impact of these technologies on workers.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

5. Bias and Power (Nov. 8, 2021)

Guests: Ifeoma Ajunwa (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Apryl Williams (University of Michigan)

Video

While algorithms and artificial intelligence are often touted as neutral and unbiased decision-making tools, research such as Dr. Joy Buolamwini and Dr. Timnit Gebru’s Gender Shades project illustrates that these technologies rarely perform equally well across all populations and demographics. The impacts of these performance differences can have far-reaching consequences in the workplace, in court, and even in the online dating pool.

We explored the industrial, legal, cultural, and social implications of this research with Ifeoma Ajunwa, professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Apryl Williams, assistant professor in the Department of Communication & Media and the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

4. Corporate Responsibility and Power (Oct. 25, 2021)

Guests: Vanessa Perry (George Washington University), Lauren Rhue (University of Maryland)

Video

Companies—especially those with digital “platform power”—wield an enormous influence over economic, political, and social life in the United States and globally. The massive scale and attendant data collection of these platforms, often coupled with the use of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, have given rise to concerns about violations of privacy, bias, discrimination, mis- and disinformation, and more. Can these companies evolve their business models to operate more securely, responsibly, and ethically?

We discussed challenges and opportunities with Lauren Rhue, assistant professor of information systems at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, and Vanessa Perry, special advisor to the Dean’s Office, professor of marketing, and professor of strategic management and public policy at the George Washington University School of Business.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

3. Machine Learning and Power (Oct. 11, 2021)

Guests: Abeba Birhane (University College Dublin), Noopur Raval (New York University)

Video

Machine learning purports to make accurate predictions and decisions about everything from prison recidivism rates to cancer diagnoses to mortgage approvals. But time and time again, scholars, activists, and journalists have demonstrated that machine learning algorithms often digitize and replicate inaccuracies, historical prejudices, and institutional harms. With so much on the line, machine learning models and the data used to train them may deserve more scrutiny.

Abeba Birhane, Ph.D. candidate in cognitive science at University College Dublin, and Noopur Raval, postdoctoral research fellow at the AI Now Institute at New York University, joined us to explore the challenges of machine learning ethics.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

2. Identity and Power (Sept. 27, 2021)

Guests: Yussuf Bashir (Haki na Sheria), Nanjala Nyabola (Independent Writer and Researcher)

Video

How do you prove that you are who you say you are? As our world becomes increasingly digitized, automated, and algorithmically operated, digital identity schemes are becoming an important form of personal identification. But without good governance frameworks in place, digital identity schemes may threaten the privacy, security, and human rights of individuals and communities.

This conversation featured Yussuf Bashir, executive director of Haki Na Sheria, an NGO based in Garissa, Kenya, and Nanjala Nyabola, a Nairobi-based independent writer and researcher, discussing the risks and opportunities of digital identity.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

1. Artificial Intelligence and Power (Sept. 13, 2021)

Guest: Luke Stark (University of Western Ontario)

Video

Luke Stark, assistant professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario, joined Kirsten Martin, director of the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center, and Elizabeth Renieris, director of the Notre Dame-IBM Technology Ethics Lab, to explore the implications of facial recognition technologies, affective computing, and corporate funding in AI research.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

Live Event Series 1

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6. Learning from Our Mistakes: What Can Smaller Platforms Learn from Ethical Challenges at Scale? (April 21, 2021)

Guests: Julie Owono (Internet Sans Frontières), Clint Smith (Discord)

Video

Conspiracy theories and other false claims have always been part of our discourse, even (and perhaps especially) our politics. But modern technologies seem to have changed the scale of the problem, with profound implications for our culture and for democracy. This series focused on the role of technology in promoting mis- and disinformation, the ethical problems that creates, and the technical, legal, and institutional responses best suited to our modern challenges.

The guests for this conversation, titled “Learning from Our Mistakes: What Can Smaller Platforms Learn from Ethical Challenges at Scale?”, were Julie Owono, executive director of Internet Sans Frontières (Internet Without Borders) and an inaugural member of the Facebook Oversight Board, and Clint Smith, the first chief legal officer at Discord.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

5. The Ethics of Verification, Identity, and Anonymity on the Internet (April 14, 2021)

Guests: David Magerman (Differential Ventures), Jillian C. York (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Video

Conspiracy theories and other false claims have always been part of our discourse, even (and perhaps especially) our politics. But modern technologies seem to have changed the scale of the problem, with profound implications for our culture and for democracy. This series focused on the role of technology in promoting mis- and disinformation, the ethical problems that creates, and the technical, legal, and institutional responses best suited to our modern challenges.

The guests for this conversation, titled “The Ethics of Verification, Identity, and Anonymity on the Internet,” were David Magerman, co-founder and managing partner at Differential Ventures, and Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

4. Science and Technology Studies Toolkit: A Guide for Handling Mis- and Disinformation (April 5, 2021)

Guests: Ryan Calo (University of Washington), Mutale Nkonde (AI for the People)

Video

Conspiracy theories and other false claims have always been part of our discourse, even (and perhaps especially) our politics. But modern technologies seem to have changed the scale of the problem, with profound implications for our culture and for democracy. This series focused on the role of technology in promoting mis- and disinformation, the ethical problems that creates, and the technical, legal, and institutional responses best suited to our modern challenges.

The guests for this conversation, titled “Science and Technology Studies Toolkit: A Guide for Handling Mis- and Disinformation,” were Ryan Calo, Lane Powell and D. Wayne Gittinger Professor at the University of Washington School of Law, and Mutale Nkonde, CEO of AI for the People, a nonprofit creative agency that seeks to use journalism, television, music, and film to challenge the narratives around the assumed social neutrality of machine learning technologies.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

3. Section 230: Online Speech and Tech Responsibility (Mar. 22, 2021)

Guests: Danielle Citron (University of Virginia), Yaël Eisenstat (Democracy Activist and Strategist)

Video

Conspiracy theories and other false claims have always been part of our discourse, even (and perhaps especially) our politics. But modern technologies seem to have changed the scale of the problem, with profound implications for our culture and for democracy. This series focused on the role of technology in promoting mis- and disinformation, the ethical problems that creates, and the technical, legal, and institutional responses best suited to our modern challenges.

The guests for this conversation, titled “Section 230: Online Speech and Tech Responsibility,” were Danielle Citron, Jefferson Scholars Foundation Schenck Distinguished Professor in Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and Yaël Eisenstat, a democracy activist and strategist working with governments, tech companies, and investors focused on the intersection of technology, democracy, and policy.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

2. What Do We Value? The Ethics of Tech Accountability (Mar. 3, 2021)

Guests: Roger McNamee (Author), Ifeoma Ozoma (Earthseed)

Video

Conspiracy theories and other false claims have always been part of our discourse, even (and perhaps especially) our politics. But modern technologies seem to have changed the scale of the problem, with profound implications for our culture and for democracy. This series focused on the role of technology in promoting mis- and disinformation, the ethical problems that creates, and the technical, legal, and institutional responses best suited to our modern challenges.

The guests for this conversation, titled “What Do We Value? The Ethics of Tech Accountability,” were Roger McNamee, author of The New York Times bestseller Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, and Ifeoma Ozoma, founder and principal of Earthseed, a consulting firm supporting individuals, organizations, and companies on the issues of tech accountability, public policy, health misinformation, and related communications.

Additional Resources From ThinkND

1. How Social Media’s Obsession with Scale Supercharged Disinformation (Feb. 15, 2021)

Guest: Joan Donovan (Harvard University)

Video

Conspiracy theories and other false claims have always been part of our discourse, even (and perhaps especially) our politics. But modern technologies seem to have changed the scale of the problem, with profound implications for our culture and for democracy. This series focused on the role of technology in promoting mis- and disinformation, the ethical problems that creates, and the technical, legal, and institutional responses best suited to our modern challenges.

The guest for this conversation, titled “How Social Media’s Obsession with Scale Supercharged Disinformation,” was Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Additional Resources From ThinkND