Research Spotlight: Priya Kumar, Nicholas Proferes

Research Spotlight: Priya Kumar, Nicholas Proferes


Priya Kumar is a PhD student at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. "Corporate Privacy Policy Changes during PRISM and the Rise of Surveillance Capitalism" is a journal article she wrote for a special issue of Media and Communication focused on post-Snowden Internet policy. She studied the privacy policies of the internet companies involved in PRISM and found that the companies disclosed more information about how they used targeted advertising to track users. These findings underscore why public debates about post-Snowden privacy rights cannot ignore the role that companies play in legitimizing surveillance activities under the auspices of creating market value. The article is freely available here: http://www.cogitatiopress.com/mediaandcommunication/article/view/813. "Progress & Peril: The Role of ICT Companies in Promoting and Curtailing Human Rights" is a chapter in a UN-published book titled, "Human Rights and Technology: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development." The chapter acknowledges that technology companies play a role in promoting global development and describes how companies can also restrict people's rights to free expression and privacy. It provides recommendations on how to push companies to better respect these human rights. She co-authored the chapter with Revati Prasad and Nathalie Maréchal. The book is freely available here: http://upeace.org/uploads/file/Mariateresa%20Garrido-HHRR%20and%20Technology.pdf (see p. 189 for the chapter). 

Ms. Kumar studies the intersection of families, privacy, and technology use. She has published academic research at the ACM's CSCW and CHI conferences as well as the AAAI's Fall Symposium Series. Her work has been referenced on NPR, Buzzfeed, Slate, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, and Time. Before returning to Maryland, she worked on the Ranking Digital Rights project, which evaluates the world's largest technology companies on their respect for users' rights to freedom of expression and privacy. Priya holds a master's degree in information from the University of Michigan and bachelor's degrees in journalism and government and politics from the University of Maryland.​​

Nicholas Proferes, a Postdoctoral Scholar at Dr. Katie Shilton's Ethics and Values in Design Lab, has recently published an article in Social Media & Society. The article, entitled Information Flow Solipsism in an Exploratory Study of Beliefs About Twitter, highlights that "while many users are well-versed in producing and consuming information on Twitter, and understand Twitter makes money through advertising, the analysis reveals gaps in users’ understandings of the following: what other Twitter users can see or send, the kinds of user data Twitter collects through third parties, Twitter and Twitter partners’ commodification of user-generated content, and what happens to Tweets in the long term." The entire aritcle may be found here.  Additionally, his workshop on User Perceptions and Experiences with Algorithms was chosen for inclusion at the 2017 International Conference on Web and Social Media.

Dr, Proferes' research explores how users experience and navigate the politics of digital platforms, and how this impacts individual agency, transparency, and governance. His work has appeared in journals such as New Media & Society, the Journal of Information Science, and First Monday, and has been discussed in popular press outlets such as The Guardian, Le Monde, and on podcasts such as Software Engineering Daily.