VIRT-EU: Values and ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in Europe
Funded under Horizon 2020 ICT-35-RIA call – Enabling Responsible ICT-related Research and Innovation
Recent policy, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation, reflects mounting public concerns around emerging data practices, RRI, data ethics and privacy. VIRT-EU addresses these concerns at the point of design through researching and intervening upon the development cultures and ethics of the next- generation IoT innovators. We ask how do European IoT innovators and developers make ethically consequential decisions – about code, hardware and data – for new connective devices? What assumptions about human behavior, privacy and freedom underpin European cultures of IoT innovation?
VIRT-EU will analyze and map the ethical practices of European hardware and software entrepreneurs, maker and hacker spaces, and community innovators in order to:
- understand how IoT innovators enact ethics as they design future devices
- generate a new framework for Privacy, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment (PESIA)
- develop tools to support ethical reflection and self-assessment as part the design and development process for IoT technologies
Our approach rests on the assumption that when designers of technologies talk to each other, debate and disagree about what tools to use and how to manage and respond to data, they negotiate and enact ethics. In this process they (as do we all) have the capacity to develop ethically from who they are to who they might ideally become. Our project seeks to identify and intervene in the ethical processes enmeshed in technological innovation, particularly addressing the Internet of Things (IoT) sensing technologies that collect and algorithmically process personal data.
The main objective of VIRT-EU is to affect the design and development processes of technological innovation by integrating PESIA tools with developer practices, resulting in better alignment with ethical and social values of EU citizens.
PERT Chart of VIRT-EU Structure
- Ensure an efficient administrative execution of the project, so that all knowledge is created, managed and
disseminated in a coordinated and coherent manner and that all technical activities, financial and legal aspects and
other issues are managed to a high standard.
- Enable robust transfer of expertise and knowledge to each of the consortium members.
- Ensure all aspects of the EC requirements for communication and reporting are fulfilled.
- Risk management and definition of contingency planning.
- Define and implement methods and procedures for initial network data collection. Define a flexible model of
multiplex network able to be integrated with additional data sources. Produce initial descriptive quantitative models
of networked practices of the communities under study including networks of relationships and collaborative
practices, action and discussion in order to identify key actors in these networks.
- Extend existing maps of IoT developers and communities to be used to identify sites of inquiry for further analysis of
communities of practice.
- Identify initial social configurations through observation and analysis of discussion, work practices and social norms
that can indicate ways of applying insights about distributed communities of practice and their real-world
counterparts. These configurations include quantitative and qualitative modeling of social dynamics as well as
collaboration practices and norms.
- Produce an initial data corpus as a baseline to follow over time throughout the project.
- Formulate domain requirements through exploratory analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, combined with
analysis of relevant EU policy and law.
- Develop and evaluate centrality metrics and clustering detection techniques for the multiplex network.
- Empirically identify, using SNA, sociological and design methods, how local culture and network society influence
the understanding and movement of particular social values among technology developers and how local difference
and network commonality can influence the development of ethical subjects.
- Develop a set of metrics that act as a proxy for measures of perception of ethical values across European developer
- On the basis of the ongoing analysis in WP2 and WP3 this WP investigates the limits of the existing data protection
regulatory framework, in terms of effective user’s empowerment and prevention of potential negative individual and
social effects of data processing.
- Define a new and broader methodology of assessment (Privacy, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment-PESIA),
which goes beyond the traditional privacy impact assessment and takes into account the ethical and social effects
of data processing.
- Provide guidelines for developers and consultants to conduct the PESIA.
- Define a questionnaire based on developer practices identified in WP3 that will assist in conducting the PESIA
taking into account existing practices.
- Develop new methodologies for achieving analytic synthesis of qualitative and quantitative empirical data and legal
- Identify connections between networked relationships among developers and community processes of idea
exchange and enactment of ethics in practice.
- Develop processes based on the ethical impact assessment framework and study of knowledge sharing and ethical
practices to systematically consider and implement privacy, security and ethical frameworks for technology
developers and their clients and partners.
- Develop tools and materials to support developers in negotiating, articulating and acting on shared ethical values
and to support interdisciplinary interaction among a range of stakeholders for addressing these issues.
- Develop a usable set of tools and materials based on the PESIA framework to be deployed to the broader
community of developers and other stakeholders.
- Evaluate the tools and materials produced by the project through co-design and co-creation with relevant
- Develop specifications for the use of project outcomes as a service to the developer communities and other
stakeholders delivered via ORG website.
- Demonstrate project effectiveness through quantitative measures of structural and qualitative changes resulting
from project-lead interventions in developer communities under study over the course of the project.
- Demonstrate effectiveness of tools and methods through a direct engagement with the IoT developers, makers and
community innovators via a design challenge event.
- Disseminate the progress and the results of the project to the developer communities as well as to a diverse
audience of interested stakeholders including civil society (citizens and advocates), policy makers, entrepreneurs,
and other scholars
- Have a considerable impact on European discussion about ethical values designed into future technologies by
disseminating key concepts, challenges, scenarios and tools through an innovative mix of channels and formats that
the different stakeholders recognize and value
- Bridge emerging policy, advocacy, scholarly, entrepreneurial and community innovation conversations around data
use, collection, storage, and re-use in the developer and maker communities.
- Support responsible research and innovation across Europe through scholarly reports and broadly accessible social
media discussions on distinctly European innovation cultures and opportunities in this emerging industry.
- Contribute to the knowledge exchange and mutual learning between SSH and ICT communities