Tag Archives: research

Emotion detection, personalisation and autonomous decision-making online

This event took place at the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on Monday, 5 February 2018.

Date
05 Feb 2018, 17:30 to 05 Feb 2018, 19:30
Venue
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

Speaker: Damian Clifford, KU Leuven Centre for IT and IP Law

Panel Discussants:

Dr Edina Harbinja, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Hertfordshire.

Hamed Haddadi, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor),  Deputy Director of Research in the Dyson School of Design Engineering, and an Academic Fellow of the Data Science Institute in the Faculty of Engineering, Imperial College London.

Chair: Dr Nora Ni Loideain, Director and Lecturer in Law, Information Law and Policy Centre, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

Description:

Emotions play a key role in decision making. Technological advancements are now rendering emotions detectable in real-time. Building on the granular insights provided by big data, such technological developments allow commercial entities to move beyond the targeting of behaviour in advertisements to the personalisation of services, interfaces and the other consumer-facing interactions, based on personal preferences, biases and emotion insights gleaned from the tracking of online activity and profiling and the emergence of ‘emphathic media’.

Continue reading

AI trust and AI fears: A media debate that could divide society

File 20180109 83547 1gya2pg.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

In this guest post, Dr Vyacheslav Polonski, Researcher, University of Oxford examines the key question of trust or fear of AI.

We are at a tipping point of a new digital divide. While some embrace AI, many people will always prefer human experts even when they’re wrong.

Unless you live under a rock, you probably have been inundated with recent news on machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). With all the recent breakthroughs, it almost seems like AI can already predict the future. Police forces are using it to map when and where crime is likely to occur. Doctors can use it to predict when a patient is most likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Researchers are even trying to give AI imagination so it can plan for unexpected consequences.

Of course, many decisions in our lives require a good forecast, and AI agents are almost always better at forecasting than their human counterparts. Yet for all these technological advances, we still seem to deeply lack confidence in AI predictions. Recent cases show that people don’t like relying on AI and prefer to trust human experts, even if these experts are wrong.

If we want AI to really benefit people, we need to find a way to get people to trust it. To do that, we need to understand why people are so reluctant to trust AI in the first place.

Continue reading

Fellowship opportunity at Parliament: Investigating the impact of Parliament on legislation

Legal researchers might be interested in the following fellowship opportunity at UK Parliament…

The UK Parliament is currently piloting an academic fellowship scheme that offers academic researchers, from different subject areas and at every stage of their career, the opportunity to work on specific projects from inside Westminster’s walls.

We are now in the second phase of this scheme. This involves an ‘Open call’ which offers academics the opportunity to come and work in Parliament on a project of their own choosing, as long as they can demonstrate that it is relevant, and will contribute, to the work of Parliament.

One area of interest to Parliament is the impact of Parliament on legislation. We are interested in working with academics with knowledge and/or experience in identifying, tracking and assessing impact to help us to understand better, and identify empirically, the influence of MPs and Peers’ scrutiny on legislation.

As a bill passes through parliament, MPs and Peers examine the proposals contained within it at both a general (debating the general principles and themes of the Bill) and detailed level (examining the specific proposals put forward in the bill, line-by-line). More information about the different stages in the passing of a bill is provided on the parliamentary website. In so doing, MPs and Peers debate the key principles and main purpose/s of a bill and flag up any concerns or specific areas where they think amendments (changes) are needed.

We are interested in developing a series of case studies that examine how Peers’ scrutiny of legislation has shaped the focus, content or tone of legislation as it becomes an Act (given Royal Assent). This can include:

  • Direct influence, for example an amendment tabled by a Peer is successful and is agreed to by the government and incorporated directly into the bill.
  • Indirect influence, for instance when an amendment tabled by a Peer is not successful but the substance of it is subsequently introduced by the government itself (and when the role of the Peer that tabled it in the first instance is not acknowledged).

We envisage that the case studies will look at a government bill scrutinized by the House of Lords and trace the outcome/s of amendments tabled and debated at each stage of the bill’s scrutiny.

The choice of bills to focus on will be decided in conjunction with the academic. This will require the Fellow to:

  • understand the intentions of the amendments tabled
  • understand how the amendment related to, and interacted with the bill as drafted
  • produce an explanation of the outcome in each case
  • draft a concise written account of the House’s impact on the bill.

The Scheme is open to academics (researchers with PhDs) employed at any of the 33 universities holding Impact Acceleration Award funding from either the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) or the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). There are opportunities for flexible working including both part-time and remote working.

The deadline for submitting an expression of interest to the Scheme is midnight on 4th September 2017.

For more information about the Academic Fellowship Scheme see: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/offices/bicameral/post/fellowships/parliamentary-academic-fellowship-scheme/

If you would like to know more about this opportunity, please get in touch with Dr Caroline Kenny (kennyc@parliament.uk), at The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

No, the internet is not actually stealing kids’ innocence

Child with phone

In this guest post, Professor Sonia Livingstone, (London School of Economics and Political Science), assesses the evidence behind claims in the media that the internet is harming children and young people. Her article is relevant to the Information Law and Policy Centre’s annual conference coming up in November – Children and Digital Rights: Regulating Freedoms and Safeguards.

The news is constantly awash with stories reporting on – and arguably amplifying – public anxieties over youth and media. The anxieties concern violence and video games, gaming addiction, internet and mental health, and teen suicide.

For example, child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg recently linked the sexualisation of children and their easy access to online pornography to an increase in sexual and indecent assault allegations at school.

His argument reprised some familiar problems that are common in media panic stories about the supposed loss of childhood innocence.

Problems with the evidence

There are four common steps that are neatly illustrated by Carr-Gregg’s argument: the claim of a media cause, an outcome harmful to youth, evidence that these are causally linked, and a mediating factor that can make or break the causal link.

  1. Children are increasingly immersed in pervasive and damaging messages from the media (online, social and mainstream) that objectify women and legitimate sexual assault. The existence of such messages is not in doubt. But children’s immersion in them and their implied lack of critical media literacy is.
  2. Sexual assaults among school students are increasing. The increased reporting of such assaults is also not in doubt. However, it’s unclear whether this is a genuine increase in assaults or an increase in their reporting due to greater awareness.
  3. Exposure to pornography is causally responsible for the increase in sexual assaults among children. This is often the crucial missing link in such media accounts; there is simply no evidence cited to support this claim.
  4. Parents (and society) are unaware of and should be better prepared for the pervasive influence of sexualised media on their children. Again this is likely exaggerated, although not greatly in doubt. But whether it makes a difference to children’s vulnerability to damaging messages or to actual assault has not been established.

But, for each step, the evidence for media harm is insufficient.

Research on children’s exposure to pornography

The conclusions of a recent detailed 20-year review of the research on children’s exposure to pornography were:

  • Some adolescents – more often boys, “sensation seekers” and those with troubled family relations – tend to use pornography. This in turn is weakly linked to gender-stereotypical sexual beliefs that can be pejorative to women.
  • There is a link between exposure to pornography and sexually aggressive behaviours in boys. But, for girls, pornography use is related to experiences of sexual victimisation.
  • However, because of various “methodological and theoretical shortcomings”, the claim of causality cannot be considered conclusive.

These findings echo those from a recent meta-analysis, which found that sexting behaviour was positively related to sexual activity, unprotected sex and one’s number of sexual partners. However, the relationship was weak to moderate.

In general, research is clearer that online pornography can be problematic as an experience for adolescents rather than as a cause of sexually violent behaviour.

For instance, a 2016 UK study found that children report a range of negative emotions after watching pornography. On first exposure, children express shock, upset and confusion. They seem to become desensitised to the content over time.

Also complicating matters is the importance of allowing for adolescents’ right to express and explore their sexuality both online and offline, as well as the finding that one reason they seek out pornography is that society provides little else in terms of needed materials for sexual education. But some have made a great start.

What, then, should be done?

The evidence in support of effective public interventions is as limited as evidence of the harm these are designed to alleviate.

Still, the precautionary principle provides some legitimation for intervention – and there are solutions to be tried. For example:

  • In a recent report, my colleagues and I proposed a series of possible legislative and industry strategies. Several have potential to reduce harm without unduly restricting either adults’ or children’s online freedoms.
  • In another report, we focused on the importance of better digital literacy and sexual education in schools, as well as constructive awareness-raising and support for parents.
  • In the 2017 report by the House of Lords, the focus was on improving the co-ordination of strategies across society, along with learning from the evaluation of what works and, more radically, introducing ethics-by-design into the processes of content and technological production to improve children’s online experiences in the first place.

But if a mix of thoughtful strategies is to be implemented, tested, refined and co-ordinated, we need an open environment in which policy is led by evidence rather than media panic. We must also become critical readers of popular claims about media harm.

In terms of identifying causes, we should ask why the finger of blame is always pointed at the media rather than other likely causes (including violence against women, or problems linked to growing inequality or precarity).

In terms of identifying outcomes, are we so sure that problems among the young are really rising? Or that the internet can engender addiction in the sense that drugs or gambling can?

The ConversationWhile such doubts have validity, it would also seem implausible to claim that the unprecedented advent of internet and social media use on a mass scale in Western cultures has had no consequences for children, positive or negative. The challenge is to ensure these consequences benefit children and the wider society.

Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology, London School of Economics and Political Science

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Social media is nothing like drugs, despite all the horror stories

File 20170615 23574 1yaztx7
Nothing like Instagram. (cliplab.pro/Shutterstock

 

In this guest post, Andy Przybylski (University of Oxford) and Amy C Orben (University of Oxford), consider the impact of social media use on children and associated media coverage. Their article is relevant to the theme of the Information Law and Policy Centre’s annual workshop, Children and Digital Rights, to be held in November.

Letting your child use social media is like giving them cocaine, alcohol and cigarettes – all at once, or so we’re told. If you have been following recent press reports about the effects of social media on young people, you may well believe this. But there is no scientific evidence to support such extreme claims.

The real story is far more complex. It is very difficult to predict how social media will affect any specific individual – the effect depends on things like their personality, type of social media use and social surroundings. In reality, social media can have both positive and negative outcomes.

Media reports that compare social media to drug use are ignoring evidence of positive effects, while exaggerating and generalising the evidence of negative effects. This is scaremongering – and it does not promote healthy social media use. We would not liken giving children sweets to giving children drugs, even though having sweets for every meal could have serious health consequences. We should therefore not liken social media to drugs either.

For a claim to be proved scientifically it needs to be thoroughly tested. To fully confirm The Independent’s headline that: “Giving your child a smartphone is like giving them a gram of cocaine, says top addiction expert”, you would need to give children both a gram of cocaine and a smartphone and then compare the effects. Similarly, you would need to provide millennials with social media, drugs and alcohol to test The Conversation’s headline that: “Social media is as harmful as alcohol and drugs for millennials”. But ethical guidelines at universities were put in place so that such studies will never be done.

The diversity of social media

But maybe news headlines should be discounted – as exaggerations are often used to grab the readers’ attention. But even when ignoring these grand claims, the media coverage of social media is still misleading. For example, reports that talk about the effects of social media are often oversimplifying reality. Social media is incredibly diverse – different sites providing a host of different features. This makes it extremely difficult to generalise about social media’s effects.

A recent review of past research concluded that the effect of Facebook depends on which of the platform’s features you use. A dialog with friends over Facebook messenger can improve your mood, while comparing your life to other people’s photos on the Newsfeed can do the opposite. By treating all social media sites and features as one concept, the media is oversimplifying something that is very complex.

Focusing on the negative

Past media coverage has not only oversimplified social media, but has often only focused on social media’s negative aspects. But scientific research demonstrates that there are both positive and negative outcomes of social media use. Research has shown that Facebook increases self-esteem and promotes feeling connected to others. People’s physiological reactions also indicate they react positively to Facebook use.

By contrast, it has also been found that social media can decrease well-being and increases social anxiety. An analysis of 57 scientific studies found that social media is associated with slightly higher levels of narcissism. This array of conflicting evidence suggests that social media has both negative and positive effects. Not just one or the other.

The amount matters

The effect of social media also depends on the amount of time you spend using it. In a recent study we conducted of more than 120,000 UK teenagers, we found that moderate social media use is not harmful to mental health.

We compared the relationship between screen time and well-being. We found that those who used screens a moderate amount – between one and three hours each day – reported higher well-being compared with those who didn’t use social media at all and those who used it more than three hours a day. So, unlike drugs, those who practise abstinence do not appear to fare better.

The ConversationRecent media reports may have made parents unnecessarily anxious about their child’s use of social media. A flashy quote or headline can often distract from the real challenges of parenting. It’s time the media covered not only the bad, but also the beneficial and complex sides of social media. The effects of social media cannot be summarised by comparing social media to drugs. It is just not that simple.

Andy Przybylski, Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford and Amy C Orben, College Lecturer and DPhil Candidate, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Two Research Associate Posts at Hertie School of Governance

For the project ‘Evolving Internet Interfaces: Content Control and Privacy Protection’ within the Deutsche Foschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) research group on ‘Overlapping Spheres of Authority and Interface Conflicts in the Global Order’ (www.osaic.eu), the Hertie School is looking to hire:

2 Research Associates (m/f)
26 hours/week

The contract duration is 36 months. The envisaged start date is 1 June 2017. Salary is in accordance with TV-L Berlin. Continue reading

‘Tracking People’ research network established

Tracking People Research NetworkA new research network has been established to investigate the legal, ethical, social and technical issues which arise from the use of wearable, non-removable tagging and tracking devices.

According to the network’s website, tracking devices are increasingly being used to monitor a range of individuals including “offenders, mental health patients, dementia patients, young people in care, immigrants and suspected terrorists”.

The interdisciplinary network is being hosted at the University of Leeds and aims to foster “new empirical, conceptual, theoretical and practical insights into the use of tracking devices”.

The network is being coordinated by Professor Anthea Hucklesby and Dr Kevin MacNish. It will bring together academics, designers, policy-makers and practitioners to explore critical issues such as:

  • privacy;
  • ethics;
  • data protection;
  • efficiency and effectiveness;
  • the efficacy and suitability of the equipment design;
  • the involvement of the private sector as providers and operators;
  • the potential for discriminatory use.

Readers of the Information Law and Policy Centre blog might be particularly interested in a seminar event scheduled for April 2017 which will consider the “legal and ethical issues arising from actual and potential uses of tracking devices across a range of contexts”.

For further information, check out the network’s website or email the team to join the network.

Information Law and Policy Centre Annual Lecture and Workshop

An afternoon workshop and evening lecture to be given by leading information and data protection lawyer Rosemary Jay.

Restricted and Redacted: Where now for human rights and digital information control?

The Information Law and Policy Centre is delighted to announce that bookings are now open for its annual workshop and lecture on Wednesday 9th November 2016, this year supported by Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal.

For both events, attendance will be free of charge thanks to the support of the IALS and our sponsor, although registration will be required as places are limited.

To register for the afternoon workshop please visit this Eventbrite page.

To register for the evening lecture please visit this Eventbrite Page.

Please note that for administrative purposes you will need to book separate tickets for the afternoon and evening events if you would like to come to both events.

AFTERNOON WORKSHOP/SEMINAR 
11am – 5pm (lunch and refreshments provided)

For the afternoon part of this event we have an excellent set of presentations lined up that consider information law and policy in the context of human rights. Speakers will offer an original perspective on the way in which information and data interact with legal rights and principles relating to free expression, privacy, data protection, reputation, copyright, national security, anti-discrimination and open justice.

We will be considering topics such as internet intermediary liability, investigatory and surveillance powers, media regulation, freedom of information, the EU General Data Protection Regulation, whistleblower protection, and ‘anti-extremism’ policy. The full programme will be released in October.

EVENING LECTURE BY ROSEMARY JAY, HUNTON & WILLIAMS
6pm-7.30pm (followed by reception)

The afternoon workshop will be followed by a keynote lecture to be given by Rosemary Jay, senior consultant attorney at Hunton & Williams and author of Sweet & Maxwell’s Data Protection Law & Practice. Continue reading