RA posting: Privacy, big data, ethics, and legal data protections

The Texas A&M School of Public Health and the Population Informatics Lab is looking to hire a law student as a research assistant for research relating to privacy, big data, ethics, and legal data protections. The research assistant will be involved in all aspects of the research process, including:

  • Research design, implementation, and analysis.
  • Research ethics compliance
  • Drafting manuscripts for publication in academic journals

The position requires strong writing ability. Familiarity with information technology, privacy law, and ethics are preferred.

Interested applicants should email a cover letter, law school transcripts, and writing sample (optional) to schmit@tamu.edu.

1L, 2L, and 3L Students are welcome to apply. A GPA of 3.0 or more is desirable but not required.

Pay will be $17.00 per hour (maximum pay under TAMU guidelines).

Research Project Description

Emerging evidence suggests legal frameworks protecting data are in conflict with the US public’s preferences.  Consequently, some laws restrict data applications that have public support (e.g., leveraging education data to support population health). Similarly, while the public generally supports research activities, demands for stringent privacy practices frustrate researchers by restricting available data, prolonging research, and inevitably raising the cost of research.

Existing research treats opinions on privacy and opinions on secondary data research as independent constructs, when in fact strong support for privacy or research necessarily demands some compromise with the other. Given an apparent misalignment between existing legal frameworks and public preferences for data use, identifying an appropriate balance between privacy and utility is critical to maximize the public benefit associated with data use.

This project seeks to understand the public’s preferences and priorities relating to legal and ethical data protection frameworks.  We will conduct a nationally representative survey evaluating how individuals reconcile competing values (e.g., data privacy versus research) and competing ethical principles (e.g., individual autonomy versus common good) as they relate to projects using large identifiable datasets. This project will specifically examine the public acceptability of different legal and ethical data protection frameworks and will leverage pre-COVID-19 privacy data to account for changing perspectives during an eventful 2020.

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