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Unintended Consequences

These research projects explore instances when new technologies are deployed for a beneficial purpose, but turn out to work to the disadvantage of groups of people who lack access to the technology or who lack protection from the consequences.

Barriers to Access: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Widened the Digital Divide

Sydney Adams &  Natalie Perez

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect our lives over one year later, it has become increasingly evident that it is in part because of the so-called “digital divide.” As of September 2020, it has been reported that more than 77 million Americans lack reliable access to home Internet connection. And, though scheduling a coronavirus vaccine appointment should not require Internet and computer access, it very often does, thus barring some of our nation’s most vulnerable from receiving the vaccine. In this project, we will explore the effect of the digital divide on access to vaccine information and appointments, and suggest some ways that local, state, and federal governments ought to mitigate this issue.

Title Slide for Barriers to Access: How the Coronavirus Pandemic has Widened the Digital Divide

Driven by the Attention Economy: Apps Designed to Keep People Coming Back for More

Ariel Chen & Isaac Tymann

It has become common practice for app developers to hire UX/UI designers to grab and maintain the user’s attention since an app’s success is heavily correlated with the amount of attention it attracts. Attention from these users are broken into ‘engagement,’ how active a user is, and ‘retention,’ how often a user returns to an app. This is known as ‘the attention economy’. Many companies profit from this attention economy when users of their applications see in-app ads, purchase sponsored content, or pay for extra services. However, the success of getting users to stay on an app longer has also led to an increase in phone/social media addiction as well as overall mental health decline. Knowing that attention-based design is becoming a given for app development, is it ethical for companies to continue practicing these methods or is it in the hands of the consumer to regulate their own attention?

Title slide for The Attention Economy: How Apps are Designed to Keep People Coming Back for More by Arial Chien and Isaac Tymann

Trading Privacy for Security: Use of DNA Databases by Law Enforcement

Griffin William Robert Powell & Eshika Talukder

With the increasing popularity of genealogical databases, individuals are sharing more and more genetic data about themselves on the Internet. However, sometimes law enforcement officials use this data without their consent. Although the purpose of doing so to solve crimes is seemingly for the benefit of society, does this practice violate one’s right to privacy?

Trading Privacy for Security: Use of Genetic Data by Law Enforcement by Griffin Powell and Eshika Talukder