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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/W032481/1
Title: AGENCY: Assuring Citizen Agency in a World with Complex Online Harms
Principal Investigator: van Moorsel, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Coopamootoo, Dr K Vlachokyriakos, Dr V Mehrnezhad, Dr M
Dong, Professor C Toreini, Dr E Williams, Professor JM
Chambers, Professor DA Elliott, Professor K Durrant, Professor AC
Katsigiannis, Dr S Shi, Dr L Farrand, Professor B
Neesham, Dr C
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Active Building Centre Atom Bank plc Citizens Advice Northumberland
Future Homes Alliance SPD Swiss Precision Diagnostics GmbH The Angelou Centre
Yoti Ltd
Department: Sch of Computing
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2022 Ends: 14 July 2022 Value (£): 2,793,095
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Artificial Intelligence Computational Linguistics
Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Dec 2021 Protecting Citizens Online 2 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The online world is a curious but uncertain world. It enriches many facets of life but at the same time exposes citizens to a variety of threats that may cause harm to them, their loved ones and to wider society. Many of these harms result from a complex interaction of societal processes driven by diverse stakeholders-we call these Complex Harms.

Consider for example smart homes, with devices that manage energy usage, CCTV cameras for the garage and increasingly integrated IT components throughout the house. With such technology, the dynamics in families may change, for instance offering monitoring capabilities. This may results in harms that may include domestic violence, loss of privacy and gathering of disproprotionately large sets of population data by large industries.

This raises a number of questions: What is the role of the individual, friends and family to mitigate potential harms? How can one work with the device provider to minimize harm? Should the law interfere? The AGENCY project will use a number of case studies to answer these questions: HealthTech, Identity Management, Smart Homes and Online Disinformation.

Complex harms such as above tend to happen to citizens, and, in most cases, they are not purposely caused or easily controlled by citizens. The AGENCY project believes firmly that establishing citizen agency is an absolutely necessary ingredient for any transformative approaches that resolve these complex harms. Citizens need to be empowered through agency-enhanching technologies, behaviours and processes to gain a sense of control, ownership, security, and consequently trust in their online activities.

Protecting against complex harms is a wicked problem because so many stakeholder are involved, and because many harms are unintended consequences of the practical use and evolution of technology. Therefore, mitigating complex harms requires interdisciplinary co-design principles, technology foundations and collaborative governance procedures to assure online citizen agency in the presence of multiple stakeholder interests. The project brings together computer science, user-centered design, business, psychology, sociology, legal and ethical experts.

If AGENCY succeeds, it will provide a profound understanding of the role of online agency in protecting citizens and will deliver collaborative methods, technological building blocks and scientifically grounded best practices for our society to provide more proactive and structured approaches to protecting citizens online.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk