Rationale / Motivation

In 2014, Ethan Zuckerberg declared that advertising is the original sin of the Web. He wrote, “The fallen state of our Internet is a direct, if unintentional, consequence of choosing advertising as the default model to support online content and services” .

In other words, the rise of personalized, targeted ads moves opposite to preserving the integrity of our privacy online and poses problematic discriminatory pricing practices. While these critiques of a surveillance business model are not new, solutions remain sparse. Instead, established companies and startups alike continue to rely more and more on consumer produced data as a means to build and grow their businesses. More concerning, public policy initiatives lack considerable accountability measures that protect consumers from such private surveillance. In some countries, these issues are facing even more pressing issues due to the nature of political regimes and national surveillance strategies of private browsing and online economic activities. 

Critically, consumers are beginning to voice their discontent. In a recent Pew Internet Studies report 61% of U.S. adults “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” that their appreciation for more efficient online services was due to increased access to personal data by third-parties.

According to the French Chapter of ISOC, 67% of French citizens feel partially unprotected against commercial usage of their personal data. With growing consumer concern and a shrinking, fragmented web, there is an impetus to imagine what may come next. 


This workshop is motivated by the need to address critically both the current state of our digital economies as well as its future incarnation. Traditional discussions of digital economics focus on automation and efficiency in regards to technology, but often fall short of examining potential societal implications. Instead, this workshop aims to reflect on the current economics structures offered by web technologies and the growing number of critiques that surround it. We welcome papers that explore and discuss technical, social, legal, and or economic implications in relation to the Web’s economy.

We would especially appreciate authors to present explorations of various international contexts, for we believe that issues, concerns and solutions may vary according to local situations, regulations or cultures. Papers can be theoretical or empirical in nature and may be a work in progress. Interdisciplinary and international perspectives are highly sought. Suggested topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • trade-offs of personalization and convenience online
  • privacy-preserving technologies and applications
  • informed consent
  • future business models for the web
  • consumer agency and decision-making
  • algorithmic decision-making
  • transparency and openness issues
  • role of regulation and policymaking
  • de-Americanizing the Web


In drawing together the Web Science community, the goal of this workshop is to provide a forum wherein those interested in the technical, the social and the legal from around the world can engage in a meaningful, collaborative conversation about the future of digital economies. We also intend to collect use cases as well as highlight current solutions. These discussions, use cases and solutions can then be incorporated into future workshops. Our hope is to offer an opportunity to move the conversation forward and to offer potential solutions that re-prioritize consumer rights.

Key Takeaways for Participants

  • To recognize the multicultural, nuanced social and economic implications of digital technologies.
  • To consider how certain data practices can be restructured in light of concerns of consumer marginalization and discrimination.
  • To recognize the critical need for increased stakeholder collaboration among computer scientists, social scientists and policy makers.