Michael Zimmer, PhD, is a privacy and data ethics scholar whose work focuses on digital privacy & surveillance, the ethics of big data, internet research ethics, and the broader social & ethical dimensions of emerging digital technologies. Dr. Zimmer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Marquette University, and Director of the Center for Data, Ethics, and Society. He is an Affiliated Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School, as well as the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute.
With a background in communication & Internet studies, science & technology studies, and information policy & ethics, Zimmer uses mixed methods to help reveal the social and ethical dimensions of our contemporary digital ecosystem. Recent projects have focused on both quantitative and qualitative investigations into the privacy and ethical dimensions of big data and computational social science research, wearable fitness trackers, intelligent personal assistants, the application of artificial intelligence in various healthcare settings, and surveillance practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a member of the NSF-funded PERVADE (Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research) project, Zimmer has studied how diverse stakeholders – big data researchers, platforms, regulators, and user communities – understand their ethical obligations and choices related to computational research that relies on big, pervasive data sets about people.
Zimmer currently serves on the SIGCHI Research Ethics Committee and the AoIR Ethics Working Group, and sits on numerous other advisory and editorial boards. He was recently named the ethics advisor for the European Commission-sponsored SPATIAL Project (Security and Privacy Accountable Technology Innovations, Algorithms, and Machine Learning). Zimmer also curates The Zuckerberg Files, a digital archive of all public utterances of Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and he is advising Gizmodo on the responsible release of The Facebook Papers.
Zimmer’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), among other sources.
Zimmer received his PhD in 2007 from the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, where he was also a Student Fellow at the Information Law Institute at NYU Law School. Zimmer was the Microsoft Resident Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School for 2007-2008, where he remains an Affiliated Fellow. From 2008-2019, he was on the faculty of the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he also served as Director of the Center for Information Policy Research. Zimmer joined the Department of Computer Science at Marquette University in 2019.
Zimmer has published in numerous international academic journals and books, and has delivered talks across North America, Europe, and Asia. As co-editor of The Information Society book series for MIT Press, he has overseen the publication of numerous academic titles by leading global scholars. Zimmer also sits on the editorial boards for New Media & Society, the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, the Journal of Sociotechnical Critique, and the International Review of Information Ethics. Previously, he served as editor of the Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy, published by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom.
Zimmer has also written for Wired, The Washington Post, and The Huffington Post, and has been a guest on National Public Radio‘s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Science Friday, and Here & Now news programs. Zimmer has appeared in news articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and various other national and local media outlets.
Zimmer has been invited to speak and share his expertise for numerous scholarly and professional organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Committee on Science, Technology, and Law, the Office of Human Research Protection within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP), PRIM&R (Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research), and related groups within academia, government, and industry. He recently served on the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Agricultural Trade and Consumer Protection’s Data Privacy and Security Advisory Committee. Zimmer currently is the ethics advisor for the European Commission-sponsored SPATIAL Project (Security and Privacy Accountable Technology Innovations, Algorithms, and Machine Learning) and sits on numerous other advisory boards.
Zimmer regularly participates in advocacy and public interest activities and has provided expert advice and consultation for Google, Microsoft, Facebook, the American Library Association’s Office For Intellectual Freedom, the New York Public Library, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), and other organizations, government agencies, and private interests. Zimmer served on the Executive Committee of the Association of Internet Researchers from 2009-2015 and has co-chaired its Ethics subcommittee since 2016.