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The University of Southampton
Web Science Institute

Dr Kieron O'Hara 

Director of Policy

Dr Kieron O'Hara's photo

Kieron had a central role in the development of the discipline of Web Science and his research interests are the philosophy and politics of digital modernity, particularly the World Wide Web. He focuses on the key themes of trust, openness, ethics and privacy and has published several books looking at the trade-offs between open data, anonymising data, and privacy online. His work stretches across philosophy, computing, politics and security, and he is also a visiting professor of law at the University of Winchester.

He is the author of several books, including:

'The Theory and Practice of Social Machines' (2019, with Nigel Shadbolt, Dave De Roure and Wendy Hall);

'The Anonymisation Decision-Making Framework' (2016, with Mark Elliot et al);

'The Spy in the Coffee Machine: The End of Privacy As We Know It' (2008, with Nigel Shadbolt);

' Power, Poverty and the Digital Divide' (2006, with David Stevens);

'A Framework for Web Science' (2006, with Tim Berners-Lee et al);

'Trust: From Socrates to Spin' (2004);

'Plato and the Internet' (2002);

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. 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. His most recent reports are 'Four Internets: The Geopolitics of Digital Governance' with Wendy Hall, 2018 and 'Data Trusts: Ethics, Architecture and Governance for Trustworthy Data Stewardship' 2019.

He is one of the leads for the UKAN network of anonymisation professionals. He is the editor of Foundations and Trends in Web Science.


Research interests

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?

Dr Kieron O'Hara
Web Science Institute
Building 32, Room 3041, Level 3
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
Hampshire, SO17 1BJ
United Kingdom

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