A people-centered approach to designing ethical technologies: Examining the role of privacy in contact-tracing apps

Oshrat Ayalon Postdoc

Advisor: Elissa M. Redmiles


08 December 2022, 12:00 
zoom & Room 206 
A people-centered approach to designing ethical technologies: Examining the role of privacy in contact-tracing apps

Via Zoom click here


The COVID-19 pandemic is an important case study in understanding how ethical values impact the success of mission-critical technologies. In this talk, I will present our work on adopting and using contact-tracing apps. These apps were developed and deployed by many countries to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, both adoption and active use were lower than expected, motivating us to explore how to improve them. First, I will discuss the results of a series of conjoint analyses, a method commonly used in product development and marketing, that were conducted at the start of the pandemic. Through these analyses, we explored the importance of privacy relative to other adoption considerations, such as app efficacy, and the presence of extrinsic incentives as a tool for marketing these apps and encouraging adoption. Second, I will discuss a qualitative interview study, in which we explored the ongoing use of Belgium's contact-tracing app, Coronalert. Through this exploration, we reveal how the app’s design influences users' choices at critical decision points throughout the lifecycle of app use. Bringing together our results from this mixed-methods research, I will discuss implications for encouraging the adoption of mobile health applications more generally and maintaining appropriate and long-term use of such tools. More broadly, in my research, I examine the role of ethical values, such as privacy, throughout the technology lifecycle – from development to adoption to use. I conduct my examination using rigorous empirical methods to gather insights from three groups of stakeholders - developers, potential users, and ongoing users - in order to distill directions for improving technological design.


Oshrat Ayalon is a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems. Her research focuses on the intersection between human-computer interaction and information privacy to design ethical technologies. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from Tel Aviv University, and a B.Sc. in Life Sciences from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.



E-Mail: oshrat.rave@gmail.com

Website: www.oshratayalon.com

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