December 16, 2020

Opportunity: Research Assistant / R&D Program Support

Ginny Fahs

R&D and Product at CR Digital Lab, focused on consumer data rights.

NOTE: This position has been filled. However, research positions pop up frequently at the Lab and we’re always interested in hearing from talented researchers! Reach out and introduce yourself digitallab@cr.consumer.org.

We’re seeking a researcher with great communication skills to join the Digital Lab team on a contract basis. This is a good opportunity for an early career technologist who wants to work on an experimental product, or a mid- or late- career professional looking to get experience in public interest technology for the first time.

Scope:

  • You will be planning and supporting a set of experiments around the California Consumer Privacy Act’s (CCPA) authorized agent provision. We wrote about our first such experiment here.
  • As part of this overarching scope of work, you will communicate with Digital Lab staffers and volunteers to plan, revise, and launch short-cycle experiments that test companies’ compliance with provisions of the CCPA;
  • Provide updates in standing progress meetings and other meetings relevant to R&D programs;
  • Draft outreach and respond to inbound inquiries about CCPA R&D experiments;
  • Communicate with research participants on program-related matters via video calls, phone, and email;
  • Document program learnings for research and reporting purposes and carry out administrative and other tasks as required to facilitate efficient R&D pilot experiments.

Qualifications:

  • Prior experience working as a research assistant or on a product team
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Proficient with technology and Google Suite applications
  • Sharp attention to detail and ability to multitask
  • Reliable, diligent, and professional
  • Curiosity about privacy, data rights, consumer protection, or public interest technology
  • Given the research focus on the California Consumer Privacy Act, being based in California is a plus.

This is a part-time contract opportunity, working remotely. Time commitment will fluctuate throughout the program period, and is estimated at 10–20 hours per week.

Interested applicants should get in touch, explain their interest and qualifications and attach a resume or CV. To apply or request more information, contact digitallab@cr.consumer.org

Background

Consumer Reports is a trusted and nationally recognized non-profit with an 80 year history conducting policy work at the federal and state levels. The CR Digital Lab builds consumer power in the digital economy, integrating research, products and advocacy to tilt the marketplace towards fairness and safety for consumers.

U.S. consumers have little control over the collection and sale of their personal data, which leads to profiling, manipulation, price discrimination and other practices that cut against consumers’ best interests. Regulations such as California’s CCPA and Europe’s GDPR seek to restore power to individuals but depend on consumers’ ability to meaningfully exercise their data rights.

In 2018, CR helped pass the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This summer CR Digital Lab conducted a participatory study to understand how the CCPA is working for consumers and learned just how tough it can be for Californians to use the privacy rights the CCPA grants.

In October 2020, the Lab kicked off a year of R&D to explore what emergent, consumer-facing services might be possible under the CCPA. We also launched our first pilot focused on the CCPA’s “authorized agent” provision (§999.326.), which allows consumers to designate a third party to issue data requests to companies on their behalf.

Our next step is to continue laying practical foundations for consumer data control in the U.S. through new pilot programs, including continued investigation of authorized agents. The work is crucial because, without good tooling, even highly-engaged and interested Californians are unlikely to be able to exercise their data rights granted by the CCPA.

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