Big, If True Webinar: Playing with Fireworks: The Aura of Illicit Data

Big, If True Webinar: Playing with Fireworks: The Aura of Illicit Data

March 31, 2021

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 – On this episode of BIG, If True, our host Joan Donovan, PhD talks about surveillance and the ethics of data collection in research and journalism with Shorenstein Center Fellow and Professor Chris GilliardJulia Angwin, Editor In Chief and Founder of The Markup, and Albert Fox Cahn, the Founder and Executive Director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.) at the Urban Justice Center, a New-York based civil rights and privacy group. The panelists cover the types of data that is collected, its potential uses and harms in different contexts, alongside how reusing data gained from surveillance technology is ethically and morally fraught.

Watch a recording of the conversation below:


Dr. Chris Gilliard is a writer, professor and speaker. His scholarship concentrates on digital privacy, surveillance, and the intersections of race, class, and technology. He is an advocate for critical and equity-focused approaches to tech in education. His ideas have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wired Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Ed, and Vice Magazine. He is a Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center Visiting Research Fellow, a member of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry Scholars Council, and a member of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project community advisory board.

Julia Angwin founded The Markup to produce meaningful data-centered journalism about technology and the people affected by it. Before founding The Markup, she led investigative teams at ProPublica and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance,” (Times Books, 2014) and “Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America” (Random House, March 2009). She has a B.A. in mathematics from The University of Chicago and an MBA from Columbia University. She is a winner and two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

Albert Fox Cahn is the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project’s (S.T.O.P.’s) founder and executive director, a member of the Ashoka Fellowship Network, a fellow at the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at N.Y.U. School of Law, a member of the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology, and a columnist for Gotham Gazette. As a lawyer, technologist, writer, and interfaith activist, Mr. Cahn began S.T.O.P. in the belief that emerging surveillance technologies pose an unprecedented threat to civil rights and the promise of a free society.


Hosted by Joan Donovan, PhDBig, If True is a seminar series presented by the Technology and Social Change Research Project (TaSC) at the Shorenstein Center. Dr. Donovan’s research specializes in Critical Internet Studies, Science and Technology Studies, and the Sociology of Social Movements. Dr. Donovan’s research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, ABC News, NBC News, Columbia Journalism Review, The Atlantic, Nature, and more. In 2020, the TaSC team launched the The Media Manipulation Casebook, a digital research platform linking together theory, methods, and practice for mapping media manipulation and disinformation campaigns. This resource is intended for researchers, journalists, technologists, policymakers, educators, and civil society organizers who want to learn about detecting, documenting, describing, and debunking misinformation.

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