On July 12th the VIRT-EU advisory board – a diverse group of people from industry and academia – gathered in London to evaluate, discuss and give needed advice on the accomplishments, current work and scheduled plans of the VIRT-EU project.
The VIRT-EU project advisory board consists of practitioners from the IoT field and well-known scholars from fields such as ethics, law, communication, and computer science among others. During the meeting we discussed the empirical research completed by the VIRT-EU partners; the development of Privacy, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment (PESIA); the process of prototyping the VIRT-EU toolbox; the ongoing process of engaging expert civil society partners with stakeholders to implement co-designed tools and processes, aligned with the changing European data protection landscape. After the meeting took place, our research assistant Barbara Nino interviewed a number of our Advisory Boards members who discuss how technology and ethics interweave with individuals’ daily lives, and advocate for social resilience in an age of individual subjectivity.
As Professor Ann Light who studies in particular how technology is political and changes how we live our lives, commented:
“ It was important that the Advisory Board were able to talk about care ethics as well as virtue ethics, because that seems to me a more sound footing in the sense that it’s about the communal, the collective, the way the world is before we start acting in it or the way that we act in it together rather than necessarily seeing ourselves as the individual agents of our fate”
– Ann Light, Professor at the University of Sussex
PROGRESS AND MAKING HEADWAY
The vast majority of empirical work in the VIRT-EU project has been completed and we are working across disciplinary boundaries to analyze our quantitative and qualitative data. The completion of the PESIA methodology has led to fruitful discussions on how to implement the framework in practice, as the legal efforts turn to forthcoming publications and reports.
The second part of the project focuses on the design of self-assessment tools that are to provide a language and structure necessary to articulate privacy and ethics concerns so as to prompt changes and discussions within internal management power structures, and with external stakeholders. Figuratively speaking, these tools are meant to take you by the hand and lead you through questions addressing ethical concerns in the design and production of IoT devices. Different stages of the design process require adjustments to the tools, and we are currently in the midst of the iterative design and testing process, which we will follow through September.
“Understanding how we look at the community of developers building the next generation of tools that are going to be used by all of us, that are going to be embedded into our everyday domestic lives. I think understanding that community is really important and that’s what this research has done”
– Gina Neff, professor at Oxford University
VIRT-EU partners have been working with a range of stakeholders within the European IoT landscape. In this final year of the project we are testing, assessing and refining of the developed PESIA questionnaire as well as developing stand-alone and companion tools to help developers think about ethical issues in practice. These activities will continue through November as part of a series of prototype tests and stakeholder workshops in Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam. We are looking forward to finalizing our tools and working towards broad dissemination of our findings. Watch this blog to find out more as we work on it!