photo of Jane smiling

I design and build consentful systems—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 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 when it comes to software design. In particular, it is critical to define it in a way so that the consent boundaries of even the most marginalized groups (e.g., women of color) are protected. My research provides theoretical ideas about defining affirmative consent and encoding it into social software by drawing from feminist literature. Based on the ideas, I build systems to enable consentful interactions. And because there is a power imbalance between companies and users, I design privacy interfaces to give users more agency, and investigate 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 Division of Computer Science & Engineering, where I am advised by Kentaro Toyama. My work is supported by a Barbour Scholarship and a Meta Research PhD Fellowship. I 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.
  • 11/29/2023: This Friday, I'm visiting NYC to attend a workshop organized by Google Jigsaw and Prosocial Design Network on behalf of Shubham Atreja, who was invited for his awesome work, but couldn't make it.
  • 11/04/2023: I recently presented some of my recent work at the Cornell IS PhD Seminar. I'm also attending EECS Rising Stars at Georgia Tech from 11/8 to 11/10.
  • 10/13/2023: I was able to get my visa on time! I will be attending CSCW in person to present a paper on behalf of the first author, Dr. Lia Bozarth. It's about uncovering Reddit mods' workflows for leveraging crowd wisdom to tackle misinformation, as well as exploring potential designs for improving their workflows. (Update: slides are here.)
  • 09/27/2023: The Wall Street Journal covered our CHI 2023 paper on findability of platforms' ad controls. UMSI also wrote about it here. (This log was edited on 10/21.)
  • 04/06/2023: I feel thankful and lucky to receive the Meta PhD Fellowship (Privacy & Data Practices)! Immensely grateful for the support of my family, mentors, and friends! And to be transparent about rejections: this was my fourth time applying. I was also rejected from other fellowships multiple times. ;)
  • 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.)

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.