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Societal Computing

Societal Computing research is concerned with the impact of computational tradeoffs on societal issues and focuses on aspects of computer science that address significant issues and concerns facing the society as a whole such as Privacy, Climate Change, Green Computing, Sustainability, and Cultural Differences. In particular, Societal Computing research will focus on the research challenges that arise due to the tradeoffs among these areas.

As Social Computing has increasingly captivated the general public, it has become a popular research area for computer scientists. Social Computing research focuses on online social behavior and using artifacts derived from it for providing recommendations and other useful community knowledge. Unfortunately, some of that behavior and knowledge incur societal costs, particularly with regards to Privacy, which is viewed quite differently by different populations as well as regulated differently in different locales. But clever technical solutions to those challenges may impose additional societal costs, e.g., by consuming substantial resources at odds with Green Computing,
another major area of societal concern.

Societal Computing focuses on the technical tradeoffs among computational models and application domains that raise significant societal issues. We feel that these topics, and Societal Computing in general, need to gain prominence as they will provide useful avenues of research leading to increasing benefits for society as a whole.

We studied how software developers vs. end-users perceive data privacy requirements (e.g.,
Facebook), and which concrete measures would mitigate privacy concerns. We conducted a
survey with closed and open questions and collected over 400 valid responses. We found that
end-users often imagine that imposing privacy laws and policies is sufficient, whereas
developers clearly prefer technical measures; it is not terribly surprising that developers familiar
with how software works do not think merely passing a law will be effective. We also found that
both users and developers from Europe and Asia/Pacific are much more concerned about the
possibility of privacy breaches that those from North America.

Team Members

Gail Kaiser

Former Graduate Students
Swapneel Sheth



Swapneel Sheth, Gail Kaiser and Walid Maalej. Us and Them — A Study of Privacy Requirements Across North America, Asia, and Europe. 36th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), pp. 859-870, June 2014.

Swapneel Sheth and Gail Kaiser. The Tradeoffs of Societal Computing. Onward!: ACM Symposium on New Ideas in Programming and Reflections on Software, October 2011, pp. 149-156.