UnBias: Fairness in Pervasive Environments

December 18, 2018 by · Comments Off on UnBias: Fairness in Pervasive Environments 

Last week I ran a workshop at the TIPSbyDesign Symposium hosted by Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. It was the second symposium of the PACTMAN project, aiming to build a community of UK TIPS (trust, identity, privacy and security) researchers. There were 5 workshops run over two days, as well as two keynotes, one by Georgina Bourke of If on their collaboration with LSE Data and Society, “Understanding Automated Decisions”, and one by Prof Paul Coulton on “More-than-human centred design”.

Organiser, Bettina Nissen, invited me to devise a workshop that addressed the problem of designing fairness in ‘pervasive environments’ – i.e. spaces where technology is present and capturing data, but where we might not be giving our explicit permission for our data to be captured. Bettina was also keen to see and experience the UnBias Fairness Toolkit, so I devised a workshop that used its tools to frame a problem space and explore its implications; to define key concerns and values; and to develop some principles that could guide future design.

We began by imagining some actual ‘pervasive environments’ and chose three (airports, shopping centres and taxis) to explore in more depth. The 20 participants divided into 3 groups, each choosing one type of environment to explore – identifying the various ‘actors’ (those installing/imposing technology within the environment and/or capturing data from it) and those being acted upon (i.e. having data about them, their behaviours and potentially interactions with the devices being captured). To help with this, we used the Data cards from the UnBias Awareness deck, and to consider the consequences and impacts (potential benefits and harms) we used both the Factors and Examples cards. We also used the Rights cards to asses how rights and laws protecting individuals would come into play in such spaces.

The TrustScape worksheets were used to identify and communicate a key concern to be shared with the other groups:

After a break, we reconvened and each group passed their TrustScapes to another. We then used the MetaMap worksheets to respond to the TrustScapes, also using the Values cards to help guide the responses:

Finally, we discussed the outcomes of the exercises and used them to define 6 principles for designing ‘fair’ pervasive environments:

  • Allowing participants to opt out without missing out
  • Exposing the role and relationship to regulators for all actors and participants
  • Understanding the motivations of stakeholders who define and control such environments
  • Providing space for negotiating alternatives to standard Terms and Conditions
  • Providing transparency with regard to the bigger picture laws and rights governing public spaces and behaviours in them
  • Providing visibility of how power operates and what the imbalances are

The workshop was an intense process over almost 3 hours and I would like to thanks all the participants for their efforts and contributions making it such a valuable experience.