KIE Scholar Awarded Complex Moral Problems Grant

KIE postdoctoral fellow Elizabeth Edenberg, and Communication, Culture, and Technology faculty member Meg Jones were awarded a Complex Moral Problems Grant through Georgetown University’s Engaged Ethics Initiative. The grant is a one-year award that aims to support collaborative interdisciplinary research into complex moral problems that have a real world impact.

Edenberg and Jones are working together on the grant, combining Edenberg’s background in ethics and political philosophy with Jones’ background in law, science and technology studies, and engineering policy. The project investigates the scope and nature of consent in the Digital Age.

Through this grant, Edenberg and Jones aim to answer two primary ethical questions:

  1. How should consent be conceptualized in the digital age?
  2. Can and should there be universal data ethics for a global technology systems?

In addressing these questions, Edenberg, Jones, and research assistant Ellen Kaufman are working to better understand the intricacies of consent in the digital age from an international perspective.

Edenberg and Jones have already presented work on the Digital Consent Project at two events: Delft University of Technology’s Center for Ethics and Technology and the University of Michigan School of Law’s Symposium on International Perspectives on Privacy and Free Expression. The team has or is scheduled to present work at five total conferences across a range of disciplines.

They also plan to publish four separate articles. Topics include consent and the global internet, AI and the automation of consent, the political philosophy of digital consent, and artificial intimacy and the future of consent.

Most recently, Edenberg, Jones, and Kaufman presented their co-authored paper in Brussels, Belgium at the Brussels Privacy Symposium Nov. 6. The symposium is a global convening of practical, applicable, substantive privacy research and scholarship and features leading EU and US academics, industry practitioners and policy makers. This year’s symposium, titled AI Ethics: The Privacy Challenge and part of a special issue of IEEE Security & Privacy, aimed to explore the opportunities presented by AI technologies and potential challenges regarding privacy, equity, and fairness.

An excerpt from the presented article:

AI systems collect, process, and generate data in ways that further exacerbate many long documented problems with online consent, most notably issues of providing adequate notice, choice, and withdrawal to users. The unpredictable and even unimaginable use of data by AI systems is considered a feature not a bug.  Yet this feature creates problems for notifying users as well as assessing when consent might be required based on potential uses, harms, and consequences. This paper investigates whether these problems impact morally transformative consent in AI systems. We will argue that while supplementing consent with further mechanization, digitization, and intelligence—either through proffering notification on behalf of the consentee or choosing and communicating consent by the consenter—may improve take-it-or-leave-it notice and choice consent regimes, the goal for AI consent should be one of partnership development between parties, built on responsive design and continual consent.