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Researcher seeks to protect and preserve data for marginalized communities

They monetize things like love, things like caring, and things like friendship for the sake of profits.

The US Supreme Court hears arguments in a social media case involving free speech rights and government efforts to curb misinformation online
The US Supreme Court hears arguments in a social media case involving free speech rights and government efforts to curb misinformation online - Copyright AFP/File Denis Charlet
The US Supreme Court hears arguments in a social media case involving free speech rights and government efforts to curb misinformation online - Copyright AFP/File Denis Charlet

Each time a smartphone connects to the web, all data undergoes a transition crossing international borders.  According to Fernanda Rosa, assistant professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society, where data goes is a concern everyone should take seriously.

“Companies say data is the new oil,” Rosa assesses in relation to big businesses’ eagerness to mine personal information.

“They come and extract data for the sake of profit,” Rosa continues. “They monetize things like love, things like caring, and things like friendship for the sake of profits. And when we think about that in terms of Indigenous communities, this becomes an even bigger problem.”

Rosa has extended her research to focus on technology governance, design, and social justice in the Global South. In particular, Rosa is seeking solutions with communities in Latin America.

Through this, Rosa is writing a book in order to better understand the ways that data circulates over the Internet. This is through an investigation into the Border Gateway Protocol – a set of guidelines that determine routes for Internet data transmission.

“Depending on the route that our data takes, you may have your data circulating in countries you don’t even imagine,” Rosa clarifies. “And then if it is in a country that has surveillance policies, you may have your data being surveilled.”

Rosa also runs a Pathways course at Virginia Tech called Algorithms and Society, covering aspects like discriminative patterns within algorithms.

Through her book and her teachings, Rosa calls for greater protections around ‘data sovereignty’. This refers to the laws and regulations regarding the ways that digital data is generated, processed, and stored.

“Where is data sovereignty in a situation when someone you don’t even know is governing your data?” Rosa adds.

Through such research Rosa remains committed to challenging injustices created by new technologies and finding solutions to advance political, social, and economic rights. Rosa hopes to help redesign Internet interconnectivity technologies to prioritize the values of Indigenous community members, such as through the creation of Intranet services, which are private and local communication networks.

Furthermore, she plans to work with community members by holding workshops and information gathering sessions to determine what technology means to them and how it should represent their lives.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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