Data and Democracy
Used responsibly, technology can make government more transparent, our democratic institutions stronger, and our citizenry more engaged.
We’re working towards an era when decision-making is data driven, AI systems guard against discrimination and bias, and the digital divide is bridged.
Data is power
Governments and businesses now have access to an unprecedented stream of data. The potential benefits for health, employment, education, finance, urban development, and more are enormous. But so are the risks. Engineers, technologists, and the organizations they work for face a profound conundrum: at issue is not merely how we can use this data, but how we should.
Tandon is defining the frameworks and tools for next-generation, responsible data use across a variety of fields, and its GovLab is finding ways to facilitate civic participation, rapid mobilization of resources, and transparency in governance around the world. Whether that’s advocating for open-data policies and platforms before the U.S. Congress, using crowdsourcing to tackle corruption in Latin America, or providing guidance to policymakers on responding to a global pandemic, The GovLab is advancing more effective and legitimate governing.
It’s about more than a single election
Political campaigns are increasingly deploying all the tricks and techniques of online marketing — including gathering exceptionally granular data on their target audience. With detailed information about our shopping habits, the events we attend, and the topics we research, they can determine what we care about. But they’re rarely open about how they operate; researchers with Tandon’s Online Political Ads Transparency Project analyzed more than 1.3 million ads disseminated on Facebook, Google, and Twitter and discovered a significant lack of transparency in who exactly was funding the advertising, as well as a disturbing amount of deception and misinformation.
It’s not about liberal and conservative or any single party line; it’s about the trustworthiness of our democratic processes and how we can use data and technology to safeguard and improve them.
Industry Assistant Professor Victòria Alsina Burgués is an Academic Director at the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP). She coordinates the CrowdLaw Research Initiative, a group examining how to get citizens and experts more involved in the drafting of new laws. Public buy-in to new laws increases transparency, effectiveness and political legitimacy for a system that often seems too opaque.
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Nasir Memon is a co-founder of NYU's Center for Cyber Security (CCS) at New York as well as NYU Abu Dhabi. Since introducing cyber security studies to NYU Tandon in 1999, his work has been key to understanding the security threats created by new technologies. He has examined the potential dangers behind biometric security systems, the spread of fake news across social media, and — most recently — the rise of deepfake technology, which threatens to undermine the public trust in the power of photographs.