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Alan Rubel
University of Wisconsin, Madison
  1. A Matter of Trust: : Higher Education Institutions as Information Fiduciaries in an Age of Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics.Kyle M. L. Jones, Alan Rubel & Ellen LeClere - forthcoming - JASIST: Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology.
    Higher education institutions are mining and analyzing student data to effect educational, political, and managerial outcomes. Done under the banner of “learning analytics,” this work can—and often does—surface sensitive data and information about, inter alia, a student’s demographics, academic performance, offline and online movements, physical fitness, mental wellbeing, and social network. With these data, institutions and third parties are able to describe student life, predict future behaviors, and intervene to address academic or other barriers to student success (however defined). Learning (...)
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  2. Algorithms, Agency, and Respect for Persons.Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro & Adam Pham - 2020 - Social Theory and Practice 46 (3):547-572.
    Algorithmic systems and predictive analytics play an increasingly important role in various aspects of modern life. Scholarship on the moral ramifications of such systems is in its early stages, and much of it focuses on bias and harm. This paper argues that in understanding the moral salience of algorithmic systems it is essential to understand the relation between algorithms, autonomy, and agency. We draw on several recent cases in criminal sentencing and K–12 teacher evaluation to outline four key ways in (...)
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  3.  89
    Democratic Obligations and Technological Threats to Legitimacy: PredPol, Cambridge Analytica, and Internet Research Agency.Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro & Adam Pham - forthcoming - In Algorithms & Autonomy: The Ethics of Automated Decision Systems. Cambridge University Press:
    NOTE: This material is forthcoming in revised form in Algorithms & Autonomy: The Ethics of Automated Decision Systems by Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro, and Adam Pham (Cambridge University Press). This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. It is not for re-distribution or re-use. Please cite to the final version when available. © Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro, and Adam Pham. ABSTRACT: So far in this book, we have examined algorithmic decision systems from three autonomy-based (...)
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  4.  79
    What We Informationally Owe Each Other.Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro & Adam Pham - forthcoming - In Algorithms & Autonomy: The Ethics of Automated Decision Systems. Cambridge University Press:
    NOTE: This material is forthcoming in revised form in Algorithms & Autonomy: The Ethics of Automated Decision Systems by Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro, and Adam Pham (Cambridge University Press). This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. It is not for re-distribution or re-use. Please cite to the final version when available. © Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro, and Adam Pham. ABSTRACT: One important criticism of algorithmic systems is that they lack transparency. Such systems can (...)
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  5. Student Privacy in Learning Analytics: An Information Ethics Perspective.Alan Rubel & Kyle M. L. Jones - 2016 - The Information Society 32 (2):143-159.
    In recent years, educational institutions have started using the tools of commercial data analytics in higher education. By gathering information about students as they navigate campus information systems, learning analytics “uses analytic techniques to help target instructional, curricular, and support resources” to examine student learning behaviors and change students’ learning environments. As a result, the information educators and educational institutions have at their disposal is no longer demarcated by course content and assessments, and old boundaries between information used for assessment (...)
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  6.  58
    Epistemic Paternalism Online.Clinton Castro, Adam Pham & Alan Rubel - 2020 - In Guy Axtell & Amiel Bernal (eds.), Epistemic Paternalism. London: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 29-44.
    New media (highly interactive digital technology for creating, sharing, and consuming information) affords users a great deal of control over their informational diets. As a result, many users of new media unwittingly encapsulate themselves in epistemic bubbles (epistemic structures, such as highly personalized news feeds, that leave relevant sources of information out (Nguyen forthcoming)). Epistemically paternalistic alterations to new media technologies could be made to pop at least some epistemic bubbles. We examine one such alteration that Facebook has made in (...)
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  7. Agency Laundering and Information Technologies.Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro & Adam Pham - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (4):1017-1041.
    When agents insert technological systems into their decision-making processes, they can obscure moral responsibility for the results. This can give rise to a distinct moral wrong, which we call “agency laundering.” At root, agency laundering involves obfuscating one’s moral responsibility by enlisting a technology or process to take some action and letting it forestall others from demanding an account for bad outcomes that result. We argue that the concept of agency laundering helps in understanding important moral problems in a number (...)
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  8.  39
    The Temptation of Data-Enabled Surveillance: Are Universities the Next Cautionary Tale?Alan Rubel - 2020 - Communications of the Acm 4 (63):22-24.
    There is increasing concern about “surveillance capitalism,” whereby for-profit companies generate value from data, while individuals are unable to resist (Zuboff 2019). Non-profits using data-enabled surveillance receive less attention. Higher education institutions (HEIs) have embraced data analytics, but the wide latitude that private, profit-oriented enterprises have to collect data is inappropriate. HEIs have a fiduciary relationship to students, not a narrowly transactional one (see Jones et al, forthcoming). They are responsible for facets of student life beyond education. In addition to (...)
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  9.  32
    Privacy, Ethics, and Institutional Research.Alan Rubel - 2019 - New Directions in Institutional Research 2019 (183):5-16.
    Despite widespread agreement that privacy in the context of education is important, it can be difficult to pin down precisely why and to what extent it is important, and it is challenging to determine how privacy is related to other important values. But that task is crucial. Absent a clear sense of what privacy is, it will be difficult to understand the scope of privacy protections in codes of ethics. Moreover, privacy will inevitably conflict with other values, and understanding the (...)
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  10. Privacy, Transparency, and Accountability in the NSA’s Bulk Metadata Program.Alan Rubel - 2015 - In Adam D. Moore (ed.), Privacy, Security, and Accountability: Ethics, Law, and Policy. London, UK: pp. 183-202.
    Disputes at the intersection of national security, surveillance, civil liberties, and transparency are nothing new, but they have become a particularly prominent part of public discourse in the years since the attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001. This is in part due to the dramatic nature of those attacks, in part based on significant legal developments after the attacks (classifying persons as “enemy combatants” outside the scope of traditional Geneva protections, legal memos by White House counsel providing (...)
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  11. Libraries, Electronic Resources, and Privacy: The Case for Positive Intellectual Freedom.Alan Rubel - 2014 - Library Quarterly 84 (2):183-208.
    Public and research libraries have long provided resources in electronic formats, and the tension between providing electronic resources and patron privacy is widely recognized. But assessing trade-offs between privacy and access to electronic resources remains difficult. One reason is a conceptual problem regarding intellectual freedom. Traditionally, the LIS literature has plausibly understood privacy as a facet of intellectual freedom. However, while certain types of electronic resource use may diminish patron privacy, thereby diminishing intellectual freedom, the opportunities created by such resources (...)
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  12. A Framework for Analyzing and Comparing Privacy States.Alan Rubel & Ryan Biava - 2014 - JASIST: The Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 65 (12):2422-2431.
    This article develops a framework for analyzing and comparing privacy and privacy protections across (inter alia) time, place, and polity and for examining factors that affect privacy and privacy protection. This framework provides a method to describe precisely aspects of privacy and context and a flexible vocabulary and notation for such descriptions and comparisons. Moreover, it links philosophical and conceptual work on privacy to social science and policy work and accommodates different conceptions of the nature and value of privacy. The (...)
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  13. Searching Eyes: Privacy, the State, and Disease Surveillance in America – By Amy L. Fairchild, Ronald Bayer, and James Colgrove. [REVIEW]Alan Rubel - 2009 - Review of Policy Research 26:633-634.
    Review of Searching Eyes: Privacy, the State, and Disease Surveillance in America – By Amy L. Fairchild, Ronald Bayer, and James Colgrove.
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  14. Four Facets of Privacy and Intellectual Freedom in Licensing Contracts for Electronic Journals.Alan Rubel & Mei Zhang - 2015 - College and Research Libraries 4 (76):427-449.
    This is a study of the treatment of library patron privacy in licenses for electronic journals in academic libraries. We begin by distinguishing four facets of privacy and intellectual freedom based on the LIS and philosophical literature. Next, we perform a content analysis of 42 license agreements for electronic journals, focusing on terms for enforcing authorized use and collection and sharing of user data. We compare our findings to model licenses, to recommendations proposed in a recent treatise on licenses, and (...)
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  15. The Particularized Judgment Account of Privacy.Alan Rubel - 2011 - Res Publica 17 (3):275-290.
    Questions of privacy have become particularly salient in recent years due, in part, to information-gathering initiatives precipitated by the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, increasing power of surveillance and computing technologies, and massive data collection about individuals for commercial purposes. While privacy is not new to the philosophical and legal literature, there is much to say about the nature and value of privacy. My focus here is on the nature of informational privacy. I argue that the predominant accounts of privacy (...)
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  16.  72
    Legal Archetypes and Metadata Collection.Alan Rubel - 2017 - Wisconsin International Law Review 34 (4):823-853.
    In discussions of state surveillance, the values of privacy and security are often set against one another, and people often ask whether privacy is more important than national security.2 I will argue that in one sense privacy is more important than national security. Just what more important means is its own question, though, so I will be more precise. I will argue that national security rationales cannot by themselves justify some kinds of encroachments on individual privacy (including some kinds that (...)
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  17. Privacy and the USA Patriot Act: Rights, the Value of Rights, and Autonomy.Alan Rubel - 2007 - Law and Philosophy 26 (2):119-159.
    Civil liberty and privacy advocates have criticized the USA PATRIOT Act (Act) on numerous grounds since it was passed in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. Two of the primary targets of those criticisms are the Act’s sneak-and-peek search provision, which allows law enforcement agents to conduct searches without informing the search’s subjects, and the business records provision, which allows agents to secretly subpoena a variety of information – most notoriously, library borrowing records. Without attending to (...)
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  18.  48
    Data Analytics in Higher Education: Key Concerns and Open Questions.Alan Rubel & Kyle M. L. Jones - 2017 - University of St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy 1 (11):25-44.
    “Big Data” and data analytics affect all of us. Data collection, analysis, and use on a large scale is an important and growing part of commerce, governance, communication, law enforcement, security, finance, medicine, and research. And the theme of this symposium, “Individual and Informational Privacy in the Age of Big Data,” is expansive; we could have long and fruitful discussions about practices, laws, and concerns in any of these domains. But a big part of the audience for this symposium is (...)
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  19.  84
    Justifying Public Health Surveillance: Basic Interests, Unreasonable Exercise, and Privacy.Alan Rubel - 2012 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 22 (1):1-33.
    Surveillance plays a crucial role in public health, and for obvious reasons conflicts with individual privacy. This paper argues that the predominant approach to the conflict is problematic, and then offers an alternative. It outlines a Basic Interests Approach to public health measures, and the Unreasonable Exercise Argument, which sets forth conditions under which individuals may justifiably exercise individual privacy claims that conflict with public health goals. The view articulated is compatible with a broad range conceptions of the value of (...)
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