Do We Really Care? Public Values and Digital Technology in the Netherlands

What do the Dutch value in digital technologies? This roundtable presents the results of the first survey to explore the relation between public values, human rights, and technology design. We find that most people take measures to protect their online privacy, but also that half of the population has never heard of technical standards.

What do the Dutch value in digital technologies? In the summer of 2023, a team from the University of Amsterdam, supported by the agency I&O Research, ran a statistically representative population survey involving 2,154 people, with the goal of exploring the relation between public values, human rights, and technology design. Now the team shares the outcomes of the first national survey to focus exclusively on the relationship between public values and digital technology.

We find that most people take measures to protect their online privacy, but also that half of the Dutch people have never heard of standardization processes. And that while we care about human rights in technology, we privilege other factors when buying a new device. With the help of a range of experts, we will discuss these findings and ask what can be done to make sure society cares more about values in technology design. Commentators include, among others, Niels ten Oever (University of Amsterdam) and Douwe Schmidt (Municipality of Amsterdam).

About the speakers

Stefania Milan is Professor of Critical Data Studies at the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Media Studies, a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University and a Research Associate with the Chair in AI & Democracy at the Florence School of Transnational Governance of the European University Institute. She works on the interplay between technology and society and the possibilities of self-organization, emancipation, and autonomy that digital infrastructure opens up. She leads the NWO-funded project ‘Citizenship and Standard-Setting in Digital Networks’ (IN-SIGHT).

Niels ten Oever is Assistant Professor at the European Studies department and co-principal investigator with the critical infrastructure lab at the University of Amsterdam. Next to that, he is a visiting professor with the Centro de Tecnologia e Sociedade at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas. His research focuses on how norms, values, and ideologies get inscribed, resisted, and subverted in communication infrastructures through their transnational governance.

Douwe Schmidt is the Project Manager of Public Tech at the Municipality of Amsterdam. Prior to this, he was a board member at Bureau Tada, worked as a privacy officer at Fairphone and as a security trainer at Greenhost. Additionally, he enjoys working closely and frequently with Waag and has participated in various programs there, including the Fabacademy. He is the founder of the Privacy Café for Bits of Freedom, organized numerous other meetings on internet and politics, and researched privacy-enhancing technologies for the Correspondent.

Marjolein Lanzing is Assistant Professor Philosophy of Technology at the University of Amsterdam. Previously, she worked on the Googlization of Health as a post-doc of the ERC project ‘Digital Good’ (PI Tamar Sharon) at the Interdisciplinary Hub for Security, Privacy and Data Governance (Radboud University). Marjolein is board member of Bits of Freedom, an NGO that protects online freedom and (digital) civil rights, and the Amsterdam Platform for Privacy Research.

Bart Karstens is senior researcher Digital Society at the Rathenau Institute in The Hague. In this capacity he has focused on a variety of topics including digitalization in education, growing up digitally, explainability of algorithms, smart cities, quantum technology and the study of societal impact of technology through the lens of public values.

Catherine Garcia is Senior Advisor on Institutional Relations at Internet Society, in that capacity she supports global Internet policy and advocacy by driving strategic engagement at major international and regional organizations and building consensus to advance an open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy Internet. In prior public policy roles with the ICT industry, she has been instrumental to the field of responsible technology, leading high-profile tech policy files, multistakeholder engagement, and advocacy efforts at the intersection of privacy, digital safety, and trust.

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