photo of Jane smiling

I design and build social computing systems (e.g., social media, workplace software) that are grounded in affirmative consent, an idea that a person or a system must ask for, and earn, enthusiastic approval before interacting with an individual. Existing social platforms enable or exacerbate two classes of problems that negatively impact society: 1) interpersonal harm people cause one another, such as online harassment, and 2) institutional exploitation of users, such as companies’ invasive data tracking of users. Both are closely related to people’s consent (e.g., "Do I decide to interact with this person online?", "Do I opt into tracking for targeted ads?"). Thus, consent is an important concept to define for software design. In particular, it is critical to define it in a way so that marginalized groups' consent boundaries are protected. My research provides theoretical ideas about defining affirmative consent and encoding it into software. Based on the ideas, I build systems to enable consentful interactions—especially in high-risk contexts (e.g., abuse of power in organizations). And because there is a power imbalance between companies and users, I design interfaces to give users more agency. I am also interested in studying how users perceive social media’s business models, which are a basis for companies’ power.

I am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan School of Information and Department of Computer Science & Engineering, where I am advised by Kentaro Toyama. I am a Barbour Scholar and a Meta Research PhD Fellow (selected on my fourth try ;-]) and was also selected as an EECS Rising Star. My PhD research gave practical help to founders of new social media, and my internship research impacted Meta's privacy strategy.

  • Below is a list of recent updates, which admittedly focuses on good news. I think it's important to share bad news as well, to normalize vulnerabilities, rejections, and failures. While it's far from perfect, you can glimpse more of my honest thoughts on this page (I keep a private diary where I record my thoughts about PhD and academia, but I sometimes share a tiny slice of them there). If you're a student who wants to discuss struggles in academia, please don't hesitate to reach out via email.
  • 02/07/2024: Our CHI paper on designing findable ad controls was selected to present at PrivacyCon 2024. Huge thanks to Florian Schaub for the nudge to apply!
  • 01/31/2024: January and December were hectic professionally and personally. But, professional good news is that I managed to submit some work I'm excited about. And... I proposed! Huge thanks to my committee—especially Kentaro Toyama!! 😄 Looking forward to finishing my dissertation based on the insightful feedback.
  • See all updates.

Selected First Author Publications

Less is Not More: Improving Findability and Actionability of Privacy Controls for Online Behavioral Advertising
Jane Im, Ruiyi Wang, Weikun Lyu, Nick Cook, Hana Habib, Lorrie Cranor, Nikola Banovic, Florian Schaub
CHI 2023
Covered by The Wall Street Journal (The article is behind a paywall, but UMSI also wrote about it here.)
Selected to present at PrivacyCon 2024 (hosted by FTC)

Yes: Affirmative Consent as a Theoretical Framework for Understanding and Imagining Social Platforms
Jane Im, Jill Dimond, Melody Berton, Una Lee, Katherine Mustelier, Mark Ackerman, Eric Gilbert
CHI 2021 Best Paper Honorable Mention
I want to give a shoutout to the incredible Una Lee (who is one of the paper's co-authors). This work builds on and could not have existed without Una's impactful work on consentful technologies. Una introduced the term "consentful technology"—which inspired many people, including me.✨

See all publications/projects

This site is made by Jane Im, code here.