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Social Media and Human Rights


Technology, Transparency and Social Responsibility

Natasa Milic-FraylingProfessor and Chair of Data Science at the School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham


Digital technologies now permeate all aspects of our lives. Many of our activities and practices are computer mediated, supporting new ways of data processing, knowledge acquisition, and information exchange. With increased dependence on digital technologies, there are concerns about broad shifts and deep rifts in the society that can be caused by differences in accessibility of information and computation. 

In this presentation we illustrate the need for a comprehensive and reliable inquiry into deployed technologies, the economic ecosystem around them, and the stakeholders involved in shaping them. That information needs to support a debate and informed decisions as public is continuously steered towards technology adoption by the commercial and the public sector.

We present empirical studies of two common practices: information access on the Internet via Internet Browsers and content sharing through microblogging by imbedding URLs into messages. Unknown to the user, these interactions are embedded into an elaborate and sophisticated economic exchange among advertisers, e-commerce sites, and ad service providers. That exchange involves real-time user tracking using third party cookies, leaving end-users completely disempowered. The lack of transparency in the technology design contributes to the lack of users’ awareness and inability to voice their concern or take actions. 

This raises fundamental questions about the practices and principles of computing system designs. It puts the roles of CS and IT experts in the spotlight as professionals who are instrumental in creating technologies that fundamentally shape our modern society and the ability of individuals to take control and responsibility for their actions.

 Natasa Milic-Frayling


Natasa Milic-Frayling is Professor and Chair of Data Science at the School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham. She has a long track record in computer science research and innovation.  She received her undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics from University of Zagreb, Croatia and Doctorate in Applied Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. 

Prior to joining University of Nottingham in October 2015, Natasa worked as a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research (MSR) in Cambridge, UK. During her tenure at Microsoft Research, she was setting directions for the Integrated Systems team and covered a range of research areas, from core IR topics, to robust reputation scoring in social media and Personal Information Management across devices and platforms. Her research is featured in +80 publications and produced +20 working prototypes, including NodeXL and Project Colletta that have been used by thousands of users. 

Natasa is passionate about societal impact of digital technologies and promotes a dialogue between the ICT industry, consumers, and policy makers on strategic issues. Her current focus is on digital obsolescence and privacy respecting technology designs. Following her involvement in EU projects PLANETS and SCAPE she has become a Chair of the Technology and Research Workgroup for the UNESCO PERSIST programme and leads the initiative to sustain digital computation and ensure long term access to digital heritage. Natasa is also a Founder and CEO of Intact Digital Ltd that ensures access and use of software applications and systems beyond their market life-time.  

On these critical issues, Natasa collaborates with a number of academic organizations. She is a Visiting Professor at the Queen Mary University of London and the University College London and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar with MediaX at Stanford University. Recently she has been elected a member of the ACM Europe Council and joined the ACM Women Europe Executive Committee. She is on the Advisory Board for the Course in Entrepreneurship at the University of Cambridge and the Turing Gateway in Mathematics at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences. She actively collaborates with researchers across disciplines and serves as advisor of e-ARK EU project and the Science of Meaningful Consent EPSRC Project.


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R. Gomer, E. M. Rodrigues, N. Milic-Frayling and M. Schraefel, “Network Analysis of Third Party Tracking: User Exposure to Tracking Cookies through Search,” in IEEE/WIC/ACM International Joint Conferences on Web Intelligence (WI) and Intelligent Agent Technologies (IAT), 2013.

Protalinski, E., 2011. Facebook denies cookie tracking allegations. Internet article, www. zdnet. com, 2.

Mobile tracking

King, N.J. and Jessen, P.W., 2010. Profiling the mobile customer–Privacy concerns when behavioural advertisers target mobile phones–Part I. Computer Law & Security Review, 26(5), pp.455-478.

 King, N.J. and Jessen, P.W., 2010. Profiling the mobile customer–Is industry self-regulation adequate to protect consumer privacy when behavioural advertisers target mobile phones?–Part II. Computer Law & Security Review, 26(6), pp.595-612.

Enck, W., Ongtang, M. and McDaniel, P., 2009, November. On lightweight mobile phone application certification. In Proceedings of the 16th ACM conference on Computer and communications security (pp. 235-245). ACM.

Ghosh, A.K. and Swaminatha, T.M., 2001. Software security and privacy risks in mobile e-commerce. Communications of the ACM, 44(2), pp.51-57.





About this website

This is the website for Ella McPherson's work related to her 2014-17 ESRC-funded research project, Social Media, Human Rights NGOs, and the Potential for Governmental Accountability.