In the media: Privacy Shield

Frederik was interviewed by Deutschlandfunk about the Privacy Shield. The Privacy Shield is an agreement between the EU and the US that should enable companies to export personal data of Europeans to the US. The old Safe Harbor agreement was declared invalid by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Court did not believe that European personal data were safe in the US, especially in the light of the Snowden revelations about data collection by the US intelligence services.


We organized an interdiciplinary panel at the ICA, the largest communication science conference, which was held in Fukuoka, Japan, in July. The panel focused on online behavioral advertising. From the panel description:

Online Behavioral Advertising, also referred to as behavioral targeting or online profiling, involves monitoring people’s online behavior, and using the collected information to show people individually targeted advertisements. This marketing technique involves tracking people’s online behavior, for instance with cookies, and uses this collected information to show people individually targeted advertisements. The use of OBA is rising. One website visit often leads to receiving tracking cookies of dozens of companies.

However, many people feel that OBA threatens privacy and fairness. Therefore, the development of using personal data to target advertising has received a lot of attention of regulators, lawmakers, consumer protection organizations, and scholars. Often, the debate revolves around privacy issues and transparency.

This panel aims to contribute to this debate, by bringing together experts in the field of OBA from all over the world (US, Europe and Japan), from different disciplines and fields (Law, Communication Science, and User Experience Research at Facebook). By providing views from different parties, disciplines, and regions, the panel stimulates a discussion about fairness and privacy in the context of OBA, and the implications for law and policy.

Speakers included: Sanne Kruikemeier, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, Takahiro Nonaka, Privacy lawyer, Japan, Joeri Troost, Communication Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, dr. Jennifer Romano Bergstrom, User Experience Researcher at Facebook dr. Christian Sandvig, Communication Science, University of Michigan and dr. Young Mie Kim, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison & Microsoft Visiting Professor, Princeton University.

Sanne giving a presentation at the ICA

Sanne Kruikemeier presenting a paper by Sophie Boerman, herself, and Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius at our ICA panel

On the new Facebook algorithm

This week, Facebook announced a change in its news feed algorithm, which comes down to showing more content from friends and family, and less news from news organizations. Some have made a connection to the echo chamber or filter bubble thesis, fearing that news exposure would become too personalized and not diverse enough (read this article in WIRED magazine). In the context of this debate, Damian has been interviewed by VICE (link to the article).

New publication on news sharing

One of the ways how news consumption gets more and more personalized is through the way people access the news: More and more, this happens through links on social media rather than through the news organization’s website. But what gets actually shared on social network sites? Together with two co-authors, Damian published an article on this:

From the abstract:

People increasingly visit online news sites not directly, but by following links on social network sites. Drawing on news value theory and integrating theories about online identities and self-representation, we develop a concept of shareworthiness, with which we seek to understand how the number of shares an article receives on such sites can be predicted. Findings suggest that traditional criteria of newsworthiness indeed play a role in predicting the number of shares, and that further development of a theory of shareworthiness based on the foundations of newsworthiness can offer fruitful insights in news dissemination processes.

Trilling, D., Tolochko, P., & Burscher, B. (2016). From newsworthiness to
shareworthiness: How to predict news sharing based on article characteristics. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, online first. doi:10.1177/1077699016654682

Facebook is a news editor

We contributed again to the Facebook debate: Natali Helberger and Damian Trilling wrote a blog post for the LSE Media Policy Project blog, titled “Facebook is a news editor: the real issues to be concerned about“. They argue that the existance of human editors who edit Facebook’s news feed should not come as a surprise for anyone, because it is in fact inevitable from a technical point of view. Nevertheless, their existence raises a lot of interesting questions and has far-reaching juridical consequences.


Facebook newsfeed debate: WSJ features our research

In an article about the current debate on Facebook’s editorial decisions regarding its newsfeed, the Wall Street Journal published an article, titled Fears of Facebook Bias Seem to Be Overblown. The article features our paper on filter bubbles and quotes Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius:

“In spite of the serious concerns voiced, at present there is no empirical evidence that warrants any strong worries about filter bubbles.”
“We don’t have enough data to say whether Facebook is biasing the news its readers see, or—and this is even more important—whether it affects their views and behavior.”

Research visit NYC and Yale

Last week, the personalised communication group visited New York City for several highly interesting meetings. On Thursday, we met with the research team of Data & Society. Data & Society is a research institute that is focused on social, cultural, and ethical issues arising from data-centric technological development. We talked to several staff members, researchers and fellows about common research interest and possible collaborations.

On Friday, we visited the Privacy Research Group of the Information Law Institute of the New York University (NYU). In this group, students, professors, and professionals who are passionate about exploring, protecting, and understanding privacy in the digital age come together. During an inspiring meeting, we talked about common research interest and issues that are important to personalised communication. This meeting might also lead to possible collaborations.

FacebookAfter meeting NYU, we visited the Facebook location in NYC where we got a tour around the location (for instance, the lab and work spaces).

On Saturday, we participated in the “Unlocking the Black Box Conference“ of the Information Society Project of the Yale Law School. Balázs Bodó gave an excellent presentation about the research project. More specifically, he outlined how ‘the Black Box’ can be investigated and discussed the ethical and legal challenges when conducting research in this area.

We look back on a very interesting, motivating and exciting trip while meeting very inspiring colleagues working on similar topics.