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Values and ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in EUrope

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VIRT-EU (Values and ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in EUrope)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-12-31

The ambition of the VIRT-EU project was to set the groundwork for a more ethical European ICT innovation environment by employing state-of-the-art interdisciplinary Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and Computer Science (ICT) empirical research in combination with legal scholarship and design research. By studying how developers, individual designers and start-ups in the Internet of Things (IoT) field discuss and share knowledge, we explored how ideas and ethical values develop and travel in Europe and beyond.

The VIRT-EU project partners achieved the following four objectives:

• To empirically identify how local culture and network society influence the understanding and movement of particular social values among technology developers. This includes how local differences and networked commonalities can influence the development of ethical subjects using data mining, social network analysis, qualitative inquiry, and design methods.

• To develop a Privacy, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment (PESIA) framework shaped by state of the art legal research and empirical data, to enable developers and other societal stakeholders to reflect upon, evaluate and take into account not only the data protection, security and privacy aspects of new technologies but also the ethical and social concerns embedded within that challenge autonomy and freedom.

• To systematically consider and implement the PESIA framework as part of co-designing a set of self-assessment tools with technology developers, who may not be able to anticipate the future use of their projects an their clients and partners, founded in existing developer practices and based on quantitative, case study and design research that identifies how ethics operate as a process.

• To leverage expert civil society partners to engage SMEs, makers, advocates and other stakeholders in the implementation of co-designed tools and processes working towards alignment with the changing European data protection landscape in order to build collective and social resilience in an age of individual subjectivity.
The main results of the VIRT-EU project demonstrate the interlinked nature of the tasks and the highly interdisciplinary nature of the project itself. Fulfilling project objectives required applying cutting edge theoretical, legal and empirical work to practical design interventions. Over the course of the project, we produced a range of intermediate products that cover a wide breadth of domains and applications: from new algorithms and network models to more effectively map online communities, to ethical frameworks specifically tailored for the IoT context. Our eventual research-based interventions have been completed and tested within the European data protection landscape.
VIRT-EU project results demonstrate how ethical questions can be addressed from within the development process. By producing research-based interventions, our project has leveraged state-of-the-art collaborative SSH and ICT methodological innovations to produce tools aimed at securing a place for societal concerns in the generation of new technologies. Through innovative and collaborative interdisciplinary work, the VIRT-EU team has produced intervention prototypes, workshop scripts, and scenarios as well as educational curricula designed to help bring societal concerns about data, privacy, security and ethics directly into the technology design process. These are available to developer communities via the VIRT-EU Service Package - a website that collects all of the project’s public-facing outputs in an easy to use and well-organized location.

Overall, our empirical investigations of how IoT developers understand and enact ethics in practice resulted in key findings about how developers negotiate values within the moral orders of their various technological milieu. Through this mapping, we have gained insight into how ideas and ethical values develop and travel in Europe and beyond. The practice-oriented VIRT-EU results offer concrete mechanisms to ensure that ethical questions can be addressed from within the technology development process. Project outcomes are immediately relevant to the IoT development communities but can be extended to broader considerations of ethics in technology development and AI.
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