Allison McDonald


If you didn’t know that signing up for something as simple as electricity for your home could wind up putting your data in the hands of a government agency, you should know that Allison McDonald is working to make sure there’s more transparency in data sharing.

McDonald’s work also tries to make sure that marginalized groups—especially undocumented immigrants, sex workers, victims of intimate-partner violence—are better protected online and have better access to the internet. Sometimes these groups wind up being surveilled. Or they can find their access to certain web services being blocked based on user agreements and where they or the service is based.

McDonald, a new assistant professor in the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences, wants the internet to be safer and more equitable for all. “Some of the goal of doing this sort of quantification component is to more effectively build tools for policymakers and for technologists to address these discrepancies,” McDonald says, “and giving, especially to policymakers and lawmakers, tools to argue for a more equitable way to regulate the internet.”

McDonald is also using internet measurement techniques to see how widespread these problems are and how far her solutions have to reach. She’s excited to be able to use her computer science background in a meaningful manner. “I felt that I really had to do the work to find a path that was focused on social good,” she says. “Concentrating on privacy and security was one of those pathways that felt like it was focused on making people safer and reducing harm.”

“The ability to help people and understand ways the status quo is harmful and finding ways to imagine and build better futures is what really got me to stay on this path.”

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