Seeta Peña Gangadharan

Seeta Peña Gangadharan was a program fellow at New America's Open Technology Institute (OTI).

She is an assistant professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her work lies at the intersection of communication policy and social justice. She focuses on the nature of digital inequalities, data and discrimination, social dynamics of technology adoption, communication rights, and media justice.

Peña Gangadharan is currently engaged in two multi-year research projects. Funded by an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, the first project looks at digital privacy and data literacy at libraries and partners with Brooklyn Public Library, Data & Society Research Institute, Metropolitan New York Library Council, and Research Action Design. The second—supported by the Digital Trust Foundation—examines digital privacy, data-based discrimination, and vulnerable populations. The study features collaboration with The Center for Community Transitions (Charlotte, North Carolina), Allied Media Projects/Detroit Community Technology Project (Detroit, Michigan), and Los Angeles Community Action Network/Stop LAPD Spying Coalition(Los Angeles, California).

From 2011-2014, Peña Gangadharan worked as a senior research fellow, helping to broaden policy debates on big data, privacy, surveillance, and data profiling to address concerns of members of historically marginalized populations. Together with Danah Boyd (Data & Society Research Institute) and Corrine Yu (Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights), she co-organized the first annual convening on Data & Civil Rights, catalyzed public discussion on data-driven discrimination, and published a collection of writing on the topic. She has produced critical research identifying privacy and surveillance norms and practices among members of underserved groups, exposed the lack of privacy and surveillance knowledge among frontline staff at digital literacy organizations, and found links between current-day data profiling to pre-digital examples of surveillance of poor people and communities of color. With colleagues, she looked at individuals reliant on public internet access and the challenges they face in adopting end-user solutions to improve privacy and security. With allies, she has worked—and continues to work—to broaden the set of stakeholders participating in regulatory debates on privacy and surveillance.

During her time as senior research fellow with the Open Technology Institute, Peña Gangadharan also examined the challenges and impacts of broadband adoption policy. She led an extensive research and evaluation effort of federally funded broadband adoption programs in Philadelphia. With Greta Byrum, she coedited a special section of the International Journal of Communication, establishing the need for meaningful metrics of broadband adoption that incorporate input from communities affected by digital inclusion policy initiatives. Peña Gangadharan’s research projects on privacy and libraries as well as privacy, data profiling, and vulnerable populations grew directly out her interest in the role of community-based organizations helping to provide critical, ongoing support to members of underserved communities seeking to benefit from broadband access. Based on her work on privacy and digital inclusion, she also contributed in New America’s Family Centered Social Policy initiative, examining the connections between digital inclusion and other social problems facing modern families.

Prior to her work with OTI, Peña Gangadharan was a postdoctoral fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, where she initiated a project on the tension between digital inclusion and data profiling. Her PhD work, completed at Stanford University, investigated the politics of communication policymaking, with a focus on the rulemaking process at the Federal Communications Commission.

Peña Gangadharan’s work has appeared in the International Journal of Communication, First Monday, Communication, Culture & Critique, New Media & Society, and Journal of Communication Inquiry. She has co-edited two books, Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice, and Alternatives on Media Content, Journalism, and Regulation. She also penned a short history of media justice organizing in the United States in Communication Rights and Social Justice.

She is an affiliate of the Data & Society Research Institute and an affiliated fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.