October 4, 2022 — New York, NY — Data & Society (D&S) today announced that its board of directors has unanimously appointed current board member Charlton McIlwain as its new board president. After a decade of service, D&S founder danah boyd has stepped down as board president and has chosen not to renew her board term when it ends on March 1, 2023. After that, she will continue to serve D&S as an advisor. McIlwain, New York University’s vice provost for faculty engagement and development, has served on D&S’s board since February 2021.
In 2013, danah boyd had the prescient vision to start an independent organization that would observe and study the far-reaching, unevenly distributed, and often poorly understood social, cultural, and political implications of data-centric technologies. From that seed of an idea, Data & Society has grown into a robust organization with a staff of some forty people working across research, strategy, network engagement, communications, and policy engagement to ensure that empirical evidence directly informs the development and governance of new technology.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Janet Haven, the news of this transition follows the announcement of the strategic priorities that will take Data & Society through 2024, when the organization will mark the ten-year anniversary of its public launch.
“I am deeply dedicated to Data & Society’s vision of a future in which the design and governance of data-centric technologies centralize and prioritize the rights and dignity of people,” said Charlton McIlwain. “As a long term advisor to the organization, It has been an honor to collaborate with the board of directors and the organization to ensure D&S’s continuing success and impact, and I look forward to strengthening that collaboration even further in my new role as board president. I thank danah for her indispensable leadership in bringing the organization to this important stage in its growth.”
“I am thrilled that Charlton has agreed to step up and serve as the new board president and I relish the opportunity to work with him as he takes the governance helm,” said danah boyd. “With Charlton, the board, and Janet Haven’s ongoing stewardship, I know Data & Society is in excellent hands, and I am enthusiastic about its future. The bones of the organization are strong, the mission is clear, and the work could not be more relevant or important right now.”
“As data-centric technologies became omnipresent in our lives, danah saw what was needed: an independent research organization that would advance the public’s understanding of these technologies and their role in society,” said Janet Haven. “I deeply appreciate danah’s vision and decade-long board leadership, and her partnership in bringing her idea to life as the organization I am proud to lead today. I am also grateful for danah’s foresight in bringing together our dedicated, expert board of directors, and to Charlton in particular for taking on the role of president. I feel lucky to be supported by such an amazing group of leaders in this moment of transition.”
D&S will publish a retrospective and a celebration of danah’s contributions later in the fall.
Charlton McIlwain is New York University’s vice provost for faculty engagement and development. In this role, he leads NYU’s Center for Faculty Advancement and oversees the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology. He is the founder of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies and the author of the book Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, published in 2019 by Oxford University Press. He also co-authored the award-winning book Race Appeal: How Political Candidates Invoke Race In U.S. Political Campaigns. Since joining Data & Society’s board in February 2021, he has held a variety of leadership roles, including serving on the board’s audit committee, chairing the search committee for D&S’s Research Director, and as secretary of the board.
danah boyd is a partner researcher at Microsoft Research and a distinguished visiting professor at Georgetown University. Her research focuses on the intersection of technology and society, with an eye to how structural inequities shape and are shaped by technologies. She is currently conducting a multi-year ethnographic study of the US census to understand how data are made legitimate. Her previous studies have focused on media manipulation, algorithmic bias, privacy practices, social media, and teen culture. Her monograph It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens has received widespread praise.
D&S’s board, which currently stands at six members, will continue to expand over the coming year. The board of directors is responsible for overseeing D&S’s organizational integrity and strategic direction, providing financial oversight, and guiding its leadership, among other responsibilities. The board’s members are leaders with a record of success in building organizations that safeguard civil liberties and address greater social inequities.
Other current board members are:
Catherine Bracy is a civic technologist and community organizer whose work focuses on the intersection of technology and political and economic inequality. She is the co-founder and executive director of the TechEquity Collaborative, an organization in Oakland, CA that seeks to build a tech-driven economy in the Bay Area that works for everyone.
Cindy Cohn is the executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), leading the organization in its advocacy for civil liberties on the internet. A prominent civil liberties attorney specializing in internet law, Cohn is a leading expert on legal issues arising from secretive government surveillance programs.
Raina Kumra is an early-stage technology investor with The Fund, the founder of Spicewell, a functional foods company, and CEO of Juggernaut, a transformation bureau helping organizations map out unintended consequences of technology.
Ellen Pao is a tech investor and advocate, the former CEO of reddit, and a cofounder of the award-winning diversity and inclusion nonprofit Project Include. A long-time entrepreneur and investor, she is the former chief diversity and inclusion officer at the Kapor Center and a former venture capitalist for Kleiner Perkins and Kapor Capital.
You can read the members’ full bios here.