New science-based technologies are fostering the process of making individuals more amenable to forms of manipulation online. The more technological capabilities improve, the more surveillance expands, the life of individuals becomes transparent, easier to predict and therefore easier to manipulate. More invasive practices lead to infringements of fundamental rights, which are not always easy to detect, as surveillance and manipulation techniques are getting more sophisticated and less obvious. After the now notorious Cambridge Analytica data scandal, we have now hard evidence individuals are exposed to manipulative practices online, which are most of the time difficult to detect as they operate silently and automatically. Manipulative practices aim at covertly subverting another person´s capacity for conscious decision-making by exploiting in particular his/her cognitive, emotional, or other decision-making vulnerabilities. They involve influences that (1) are hidden, (2) exploit vulnerabilities, and (3) are targeted. The seminar has the objective to discuss a series of new technologies and techniques that are and can be used in online manipulative practices and analyse their legal and ethical implications. Special attention is dedicated to the risk such practices pose to fundamental rights such as the right to privacy, the right to the protection of personal data and the right to non-discrimination.
10 sub-topics are provided below. It is a list of new technologies and techniques that can be used in manipulative practices. Students should pick one sub-topic in order to write a short paper and prepare a presentation. Students work is guided through a series of questions and a list of recommended literature. In short, papers and presentations should be generally structured in this way:
We also encourage students to investigate possible technical solutions to the problems highlighted in their analysis.