A white woman sitting on a high stool reading from a book, with her words being displayed on a large TV screen next to her

MozFest 2023: asking people to part with data in the shadow of debates about AI

In late June, Mozilla hosted its first in-person MozFest for the first time in three years – MozFest 2023!

Taking place from 19 to 21 June in beautiful Amsterdam, MozFest 2023 saw more than 300 researchers, activists and civil-society workers come from all over the world to discuss, discover and explore issues and ethics related to trustworthy AI.

As part of this, Open Data Manchester took part in another Ethical Dilemma Cafe, building on work we’d done previously asking some of today’s trickiest questions at Feel Good Club in Manchester and as part of Digital Design Week at the V&A in London.

At the Ethical Dilemma Cafe, visitors are asked whether they will exchange personal data for a free drink, they can explore installations, listen to talks and join workshops, all exploring some of the key issues we face with data today.

Designed to raise awareness of the ethical dilemmas that arise when personal data is collected and used, it asks what personal data are you willing to part with and for what reason?

Open Data Manchester showcased our ‘Lost in Translation’ exhibit at MozFest 2023, which is designed to challenge the ubiquity of listening technologies such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana, and how they are perceived as being benign or neutral.

‘Lost in Translation’ encourages participants to read a prepared text about surveillance into a microphone which simultaneously gets translated into text, driven by Google’s Speech to Text API.

Text is displayed live on a screen, which highlights the errors, inaccuracies – and biases – that are built in to these listening devices that we’ve invited into our homes and our every day lives.

Some people were willing to read long extracts purely for the fun of seeing how well the Google API interpreted their voice or accent, to those who, well aware of the ethical dilemmas surround such devices, wanted to stay as far away from the microphone as they could for fear of their voice being accidentally picked up.

‘Lost in Translation’ is just one of a number of interactive exhibits that Open Data Manchester has developed that explore some of the dilemmas we face with data today.

If you’re interested in bringing our exhibit to an event near you, or anything more besides, then get in touch… hello@opendatamanchester.org.uk.