[Air-L] University of Maryland, Part of a Six-Institution Collaboration, Receives NSF Grant for Groundbreaking Study on Big Data Ethics

Mary Anne Kendig mkendig at umd.edu
Wed Sep 6 10:32:04 PDT 2017

>From mobile phone apps to website search engines, wearable technology to
social platforms, consumer information has become highly trackable and
available, resulting in an ethically questionable free-for-all in research
and marketing. But consumers aren’t the only ones concerned about how their
personal information is being collected and used. The University of
Maryland’s College of Information Studies has formed a project team with
five other research institutions to explore the ethics of how these data
are captured and used.

The four-year project, PERVADE <http://pervade.umd.edu/> (Pervasive Data
Ethics for Computational Research), was awarded a $3 million grant from the
National Science Foundation in August 2017. Prior research on ethics of
large and pervasive data has hit roadblocks caused by a lack of empirical
knowledge. The PERVADE team looks to “reveal ethical practices and norms to
guide those who utilize big data and to inform policymaking and
regulation,” says Dr. Katie Shilton, Associate Professor in the College of
Information Studies at UMD and principal investigator on the grant.

PERVADE brings together a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in
computational science, research ethics, data practices, law and policy,
health information, social computing, qualitative and quantitative research
methods, and data privacy:

*Dr. Katie Shilton* - College of Information Studies at the University of
Maryland College Park

*Dr. Jessica Vitak* - College of Information Studies at the University of
Maryland College Park

*Dr. Matthew Bietz* - Department of Informatics at the University of
California, Irvine

*Dr. Casey Fiesler* - Department of Information Science, College of Media,
Communication and Information at University of Colorado Boulder

*Dr. Jacob Metcalf* - Data & Society Research Institute

*Dr. Arvind Narayanan* - Department of Computer Science at Princeton

*Dr. Michael Zimmer* - School of Information Studies at the University of

The project’s research focus will extend across consumers, big data
researchers, commercial providers, and regulators, both domestically and
internationally, to explore how these diverse stakeholders understand their
ethical obligations and choices, and how their decisions impact data system
design and use.

Specific issues that the PERVADE team will examine include how people
experience the reuse of their personal data; what social factors influence
people’s willingness to share their data; how and when consent should be
given; and how consumers’ concerns can be shared with data system designers
and big data researchers.

“By empowering researchers with information about the norms and risks of
big data research, we can make sure that users of any digital platform are
only involved in research in ways they don’t find surprising or unfair,”
Dr. Shilton says.

The team aims to use project findings to guide best practices for each
stakeholder group using decision-support tools, risk measurement methods,
public educational materials, and an open dataset of findings by the end of
the project in 2021.

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