A Software Exoskeleton to Protect and Support Citizen's Ethics and Privacy in the Digital World
Journal article, 2019
Citizens of the digital world are threatened. The digital systems that surround them are increasingly able to make autonomous decisions over and above them and on their behalf. They feel that their moral rights, as well as the social, economic, and political spheres, can be affected by the behavior of such systems. Although unavoidable, the digital world is becoming uncomfortable and potentially hostile to its users as human beings and as citizens. Notwithstanding the introduction of the GDPR and of initiatives to establish criteria on software transparency and accountability, users feel vulnerable and unprotected. In this paper, we present EXOSOUL, an overarching research framework that aims at building a software a personalized exoskeleton that enhances and protects users by mediating their interactions with the digital world according to their own ethics of actions and privacy of data. The exoskeleton disallows or adapts the interactions that would result in unacceptable or morally wrong behaviors according to the ethics and privacy preferences of the users. With their software shield, users will feel empowered and in control, and more in the balance of forces with the other actors of the digital world. To reach the breakthrough result of automatically building a personalized exoskeleton, EXOSOUL identifies multidisciplinary challenges never touched before: 1) defining the scope for and inferring citizen's ethical preferences; 2) treating privacy as an ethical dimension managed through the disruptive notion of active data; and 3) automatically synthesizing ethical actuators, i.e., connector components that mediate the interaction between the user and the digital world to enforce her ethical preferences. In this paper, we discuss the research challenges of EXOSOUL in terms of their feasibility and risks.