The Data Transparency Lab Conference 2016 kicks off tomorrow

Florence Broderick    15 November, 2016

By Ramon Sangüesa, Data Transparency Lab coordinator.

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This week the 2016 edition of the Data Transparency Lab conference will take place.  In this event, a community of technologists, researchers, policymakers and industry representatives come together at Columbia University in New York in their ambition to advance online personal data transparency through scientific research and design. This same conference took place last year in Boston at MIT as you can see below:

The uncontrollable growth of the internet has outpaced our ability as individuals, societies and states to maintain control of our identity and privacy meaning that we need to define new guidelines for how our personal data is owned, accessed and used, according to the DTL website.

The conference which kicks off tomorrow has several key objectives:

  • Promote the concept of personal data transparency enabling users to have the right tools to know who, how, why and for what their data is being used.
  • Provide a platform for the research and development of the new tools which allow this.
  • Bring together researchers, regulators, industry leaders, designers, journalists and active players in the area of privacy and data transparency allowing their to be a interdisciplinary dialogue.
As part of their strategy to achieve these objectives, the DTL gives 6 grants per year to projects which help them to achieve this goal to achieve online personal data transparency through scientific research. These projects are presently in different stages of development, however, we are particularly excited about the Facebook Data Valuation Tool (FDVT) which has been developed by a research team at the Carlos III University, led by Professor Angel Cuevas – which was recently featured in the El Confidencial newspaper. This video explains a little more about the potential of this tool:

As you can see in the video, this unique tool is an add-on for browsers which runs while you interact with Facebook. The FDVT estimates how much your activity on Facebook (browsing, posting, liking, clicking on adverts, etc.) is worth. 
To calculate this estimation the FDVT browser extension locates the ads you are being shown while the user is “inside” Facebook, calculating the value of this advertising impression throughout the session. And of course, this value grows if the user clicks on an advert within Facebook.
One of the key findings of this tool is that it hints at higher revenues than the usual estimate for each user of Facebook throughout a whole year of usage. This has been estimated at approximately €10, however, it is easy to see that if you extrapolate the value generated in a short span of time devoted to using the FDVT, the final yearly value generated will be much higher.
Beyond the direct effect of raising users awareness about the economy behind their personal data, this tool can have some other practical uses. We have also been approached by a research group in economics and international taxes. They understand that with a tool like this, it could be easier to estimate how much taxes a company such as Facebook should be paying in each country, just by segmenting data from the FDVT if is shared with a substantial number of users in different countries.
Want to find out more about the FDVT? Check out Chema Alonso’s take on his blog, or if you would like to try out the FDVT, you can find a downloadable version here.
To attend this conference, register on the Eventbrite page or keep an eye on the action on Twitter, following the Data Transparency Lab Twitter account.

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