The University of San Francisco Data Institute Launches New Center for Applied Data Ethics

$750k gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to fuel first year of activities, including data ethics seminars and certificate courses

SAN FRANCISCO (August 12, 2019) – The University of San Francisco (USF) Data Institute has launched the Center for Applied Data Ethics (CADE) to address issues surrounding the misuse of data through education, research, public policy and civil advocacy. Funded by a generous gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the organization of craigslist founder Craig Newmark, the first year will include a tech policy workshop, a data ethics seminar series, and research and data ethics certificate courses, all of which will be open to the community at-large. USF Data Institute researcher Rachel Thomas will lead CADE as Director.

“The problems we face are serious: the encoding and magnification of unjust bias, the increased surveillance and erosion of privacy, the spread of disinformation, the amplification of conspiracy theories, alarming uses of predictive policing, a lack of accountability for tech companies,” said Thomas. “This initiative will help to facilitate necessary systemic changes through a tech policy workshop, an emphasis on root causes in our courses and research, and a goal to foster relationships between policymakers and those in tech who do not represent corporate interests.” 

CADE will leverage existing resources, such as relationships with over 160 partner companies, and will amplify experts from a range of backgrounds. CADE will also partner with tech industry employees and founders, civil rights groups, policy makers, nonprofits, and academic researchers to promote ethical practices and policies around data.

"Our aim is to both equip individuals with tools for conducting ethical data science and help the industry address causes of ethical issues in the field,” explained David Uminsky, executive director of the USF Data Institute. “We are grateful to Craig Newmark for supporting our efforts to help educate the public on data ethics issues and to work with on-the-ground experts to address these urgent problems.”

Diversity is a crucial component of addressing tech ethics challenges. CADE is committed to inclusivity and will host speakers, and support students and researchers, who bring a variety of experiences and viewpoints, with a particular focus on engaging people from underrepresented groups.

“If we are going to embed ethics into the tech we build and make products that serve the common good, we need serious innovation, and that requires building and engaging diverse teams,” said Newmark. “I’m proud to support CADE as they work to do just that.”

CADE will hold its inaugural data ethics seminar on Monday, August 19, at 6:00 p.m. at the University of San Francisco’s Downtown Campus, located at 101 Howard St. The seminar will feature Deborah Raji, Research Fellow at Partnership in AI, who will speak on algorithmic justice. This event will be free and open to the public. 


About the University of San Francisco

The University of San Francisco is located in the heart of one of the world’s most innovative and diverse cities and is home to a vibrant academic community of students and faculty who achieve excellence in their fields. Its diverse student body enjoys direct access to faculty, small classes, and outstanding opportunities in the city itself. USF is San Francisco’s first university, and its Jesuit Catholic mission helps ignite a student’s passion for social justice and a desire to “Change the World From Here.” The Campaign for the University of San Francisco is raising $300 million through 2022 to support student scholarships and financial aid, the creation of bold and innovative programs, and the renovation of current facilities and construction of new space, all part of expanding the university’s global influence. For more information, visit usfca.edu/campaign.

About the USF Data Institute

Established in 2016, the USF Data Institute serves as the umbrella organization for data science education, research and programming at USF. The Data Institute offers MS Data Science, BS Data Science and continuing education certificates. For more information, visit datainstitute@usfca.edu.

About Craig Newmark Philanthropies

Craig Newmark Philanthropies was created by craigslist founder Craig Newmark to support and connect people and drive broad civic engagement. It works to advance people and grassroots organizations that are getting stuff done in areas that include trustworthy journalism, voter protection, gender diversity in technology, and veterans and military families. For more information, please visit: CraigNewmarkPhilanthropies.org.