Allison McDonald

Assistant Professor of Computing & Data Sciences

Allison McDonald is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences (CDS) at Boston University.

Working at the nexus of security, privacy, and human-computer interaction (HCI), McDonald’s research emphasizes how technology impacts digital safety and exacerbates marginalization of often-overlooked groups such as refugees, political dissidents, and victims of domestic abuse. To that end, she leverages a diverse set of computational and social science methodologies to investigate causes of, and develop solutions to privacy and security challenges facing high-risk populations in order to advance holistic digital safety for these populations as well as for the general population.

McDonald’s work uses a transdisciplinary lens — with toolkits ranging from human-subject interviews, surveys, and focus groups to large-scale internet measurement and laboratory experiments — to investigate the digital safety needs and challenges facing high-risk users when they engage in online activities, quantifying the impact of government regulation and corporate policy on safety, and informing the design of technical and procedural interventions that support safety for all.

McDonald received her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Michigan in the summer of 2022. During her doctoral studies, she was supported by a Facebook Fellowship and a Rackham Merit Fellowship. She was also appointed as a Research Fellow at the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law. Her work has been recognized with Best Paper Awards at the USENIX Security Symposium, IEEE Security & Privacy Symposium, and the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Before beginning her PhD studies, She was a Roger M. Jones fellow at the European University Viadrina studying international human rights and humanitarian law. She holds a BSE in Computer Science and a BS in German from the University of Michigan.


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