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Kieron O'Hara

Kieron O'Hara

Research interests

  • Privacy, trust, digital modernity, ethics,
  • Web Science, anonymisation,
  • Politics of data

More research


Kieron O'Hara is an associate professor in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. He has had a central involvement in the development of the discipline of Web Science. He is the author of several books, including: 'Plato and the Internet' (2002); 'Trust: From Socrates to Spin' (2004); ' Power, Poverty and the Digital Divide' (2006, with David Stevens); and 'The Spy in the Coffee Machine: The End of Privacy As We Know It' (2008, with Nigel Shadbolt), as well as 'A Framework for Web Science' (2006, with Tim Berners-Lee et al). He has also written extensively on British politics and political theory, and is a research fellow for the Centre for Policy Studies, and an associate fellow of Bright Blue. His latest book is 'The Anonymisation Decision-Making Framework' (2016, with Mark Elliot et al), and his latest edited collection is 'The Digital Enlightenment Forum Yearbook 2014: Social Networks and Social Machines, Surveillance and Empowerment' (2013, edited with M-H Carolyn Nguyen and Peter Haynes). He chaired the transparency sector panel for crime and criminal justice for the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office from 2011-15. His report on privacy in the context of the UK government's transparency programme, 'Transparent Government, Not Transparent Citizens', was published in September 2011. He is one of the leads for the UKAN network of anonymisation professionals. He is the editor of Foundations and Trends in Web Science.

His research interests are in the nature of digital modernity: in other words, the impact and future trajectory of networked digital technology on society, the economy and politics. The technologies available to us, to the groups and social machines we form, and to the institutions around us, are increasing in power and scope, on the back of the data revolution. This creates many economic and social opportunities, while at the same time innovation becomes more disruptive, and long-established practices are disintermediated. Privacy is harder to defend as AI, ML, big data, the Internet of Things, social networking and the free services economy threaten to overwhelm the data protection framework based around individual rights and personal data. Trust becomes more complex as understandings of trustworthy behaviour are disconnected from well-understood social norms. Different visions of the Internet’s future governance are being forged by geopolitical tensions, which will influence the affordances of the technology for individuals, social groups, companies and states. What does digital modernity look like, and where might its logic take us? Where do the opportunities lie, and how can we protect existing valuable practices and resources as we explore those opportunities?

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