iHub seminar

2023-06-27 15:30 - 17:00 E19.03

This talk will investigate the turn to "local processing" in computing infrastructures and what this means for the rights of the individuals whose devices are enlisted in such "local processing".

Profiling of individuals has long been a concern to scholars and civil society, and a lucrative way for platforms to shape markets and extract value. However, people and their environments are not just computed, but they are increasingly also expected to become agents in large scale computations. The strengthening of privacy and data protection law has been used as a reason to move more and more advanced computation concerning individuals, groups and environments onto people’s devices, in a shift called ‘local processing’. This sees individuals’ devices and software work together to undertake collective computations, which often claim to be confidential with the data of each person involved. For example, phones may work together to create models or analysis of spoken language, without revealing anything that any user said to any other person. These “privacy-enhancing technologies”, such as secure multi-party computation (MPC), have interesting potential, but seeing an individual as participants in a computation raises new challenges. What autonomy do people have to shape such participation, given the limited technical and practical control over the devices in their pockets. Does their contribution to ethically questionable computation bring some responsibility, and should they be facilitated to refuse to participate in it? How does the individual relate to the overarching forces that orchestrate their “personal” computers, and how do emerging regimes, such as the ex ante provisions in the Digital Markets Act and the Data Act, as well as interpretations of the General Data Protection Regulation, mediate between the individual as computed, and the individual as supporting the computation itself?