Written by Linh Ly
While many people are already familiar with the concept of a “digital footprint” - the idea of an online version of oneself being collected by organizations and institutions - and believe this is a useful strategy for performing surveillance, especially after the 9/11 attack, this can be a major problem for marginalized populations. What if your social media account was an e-ticket of life and determined whether or not you could live in your country or move to a new one in search of a better life? This may sound like another Black Mirror episode, but we are not far from turning these kinds of imaginations into a reality.
A recent article published by The New York Times entitled U.S. Requiring Social Media Information From Visa Applicants discussed how “visa applicants to the United States are required to submit any information about social media accounts they have used in the past five years under a State Department policy” , and it can also determine whether the U.S. will take you. Rewinding back to the past, in late September 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started to gather social media data from immigrants entering the U.S. , and now it seems like only a matter of time before this becomes a regulation. This is definitely concerning and has a number of implications, especially in terms of mental health.
Immigrants often face unique challenges and stressors that increase their risk of mental health concerns. Social media plays an important role for some; immigrants use social media to stay connected with their family overseas and to get in touch with people that are similar to them to receive the informal support they need in order to cope with post-migration experiences. Some even use social media platforms as a way to deal with their mental health. For instance, if you search “depression” through Facebook’s search engine, many community pages, personal blogs, and groups appear. Liking the community page or requesting to join a group could mean different things to different people. To some people, requesting to join a group means revealing their struggle with depression. Although mental health can be sensitive for many, this can be particularly sensitive information for immigrant groups. For others, requesting to join these groups could be misinterpreted, and it could automatically be assumed that you have depression even if you just want to understand the experiences of individuals coming from these communities.
Given the fact that DHS will collect immigrants’ social media data, sharing information and personal experiences about mental health could hurt immigrants’ statuses in the U.S. and keep them from upward mobility. What if this information on social media is used against them when they look for jobs? What if what they believed to be private disclosures of mental health are used to deny their access to university education or a high paying job? How I see this playing out: there are many negative attitudes and beliefs that already exist against immigrants, and trying to determine if they have mental illnesses will only prevent them from getting jobs because of the stigma that is attached to mental health (e.g., violence, unreliable, crazy, dangerous) even though talking about mood disorders like depression has become more acceptable in the U.S.
It is important that people be aware of the kind of authority they have over their personal information, especially in an online world. Down the line in 2 years or 5 years, no one will know exactly who could have access to their personal data and how these data will be used against them. That’s exactly what happened with Facebook. When it was first developed, it was a simple platform that was meant to connect college students, but look at the kind of power and influences Facebook has today.
In short, privacy and autonomy go side-by-side because no one wants to lose the ability to make decisions regarding what’s best for themselves, their future, and their goals, which is where human-centered design and engineering come in. So the next time you decide to post something on social media, think carefully about data privacy, especially if you are being perceived as an “outsider” in the society that you currently live in.
 Garcia, Sandra E. “U.S. Requiring Social Media Information From Visa Applicants.” The New York Times, 2 June 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/02/us/us-visa-application-social-media.html . Accessed 5 June 2019.
 Nixon, Ron. “U.S. Collect Social Media Data on All Immigrants Entering Country.” The New York Times, 28 September 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/28/us/politics/immigrants-social-media-trump.html . Accessed 5 June 2019.
"Octopet" is a m-health Android application focused on food logging. The idea was that users would take pictures of their food, and the application's resident "Octocat" would determine whether that food was healthy or not based on an algorithm involving natural language/image processing and food databases. Stemming from our love of pets and unhealthy junk food consumption, we wanted to create an application that promotes a healthy diet incentivized by sustaining the life of a virtual companion.
Octocat provides a fun and responsible way to track your dietary health! By snapping a picture of what you eat on the app, you will also feed your pet with it. Octocat will then respond depending on how healthy the food is. If unhealthy, Octocat will gag. If healthy, Octocat will beam! Be careful though, a cat only has nine lives and Octocat can't take too much punishment. ...We primarily utilized the Android Studio IDE to build Octocat. Using Java and XML files, we connected our app to the Android phone's camera for picture-taking capability. Then, we utilized image labeling from Google's Firebase machine learning kit and visual API to process and label images. Finally, we brought in our Octocat from Giphy via the Transposit API.
There is no demo, but our source code is on Github and our promo video is here!
More information: https://devpost.com/software/octopet
We're excited to announce that Team Apps' poster paper entitled "A Content Analysis of Popular Diet, Fitness, and Weight Self-Tracking Mobile Apps on Google Play" was accepted to PervasiveHealth 2019!
This past February, Arthur Tham participated in UCI's hackathon "HackUCI 2019" and created an award-winning hack called HackUWU!
"I have always wanted to pursue game development as a side hobby, and this was the first game I developed [that] won an award of any kind - something that I will not forget," Arthur said about achieving such recognition.
Created entirely in GameMaker: Studio, it co-won the Best Joke Hack by bringing out the joy of uwu, owo, and ewe in a partnership with the uwu alliance of sponsors. Players need to express "uwu" as fast as they can by popping the uwu, owo, and ewe balloons. Along the way, zotAlerts, $2 boba, and Peter's Hack form appear to distract the hackers from spreading the word of uwu. Will you be able to spread uwu to all of the Anteaters?
For more information, visit:
In November, Team Rumination Nation applied for funding for the project entitled "Emotion and Thought Responses to Data Engagement and Design Features in Diet and Fitness Apps" through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) at the University of California, Irvine. It was a competitive year; UROP received a record number of 628 applications. The Faculty Advisory Board saw merit in our work and awarded us $500! The team just finished a round of practice data collection sessions, and we're eager to recruit and collect data soon. They will present their research findings at the UCI Undergraduate Research Symposium in May 2019.
Jenni was awarded the Office of Engaged Learning Travel Scholarship. She also found out she has been accepted into the Research Scholar Apprentice Program. This program will allow her to work closely with a PhD student on their dissertation project.
Naika received generous funding from the College of Westchester, and Linh was awarded the Ruth Hagenstein Scholarship through the Sociology Department from the University of Washington. Chris was also awarded a Student Travel Award from the University of Pittsburgh.
Hope to see you on April 1 when they present their paper!
We want to extend a huge congratulations to Linh Ly, Julissa Murrieta, and Jenni Thang! They all were accepted to the first ever Undergraduate Symposium to be held at iConference 2019.
We're thrilled to announce that Team Deprew Fusion and Team Dopamine's paper, "Investigating Health Self-Management among Different Generation Immigrant College Students with Depression", was accepted to iConference 2019. The joint team has been working hard to put together their presentation, and we're excited to share our work this April in Washington, DC!
Team Dopamine delivered a fantastic presentation at the i3 Concluding Institute at the University of Pittsburgh. The feedback they received blew us away!
"Best presentation in 8 years!"
They put in many hours of preparation, and it paid off. Here's a photo of them practicing.