Ethics In UX: Human Rights & Privacy Taught By Caroline Sinders

Ethics In UX: Human Rights & Privacy Taught By Caroline Sinders

Can we ever make ethical technology, and how would we do it? Is it possible or achievable? In this 6-week course taught by critical designer and artist Caroline Sinders, we will analyze and dig into the terms and concepts Silicon Valley uses in relation to equitable technology and ethics, such as consent, legibility, transparency, and trust. We’ll ideate and come up with products, and we’ll unpack how to work collaboratively, and explore the role of social justice in art.

This course is a mixture of lectures, reading, and group exercises where we’ll learn about design justice, emancipatory design, human rights-centered design, participatory design, and co-design, and what the drawbacks of those approaches are. We’ll also look at the Secure UX Checklist, and hear from some human rights activists about how we can design with, as opposed to for, communities.

Course Logistics

Dates: Every Saturday, April 17 to May 22, 2021
Times: 11am–2pm PST
Cost: $360 for a six week course – We also offer Diversity Scholarships, find out more here.
Experience Level: Basic UX design, or human centered design knowledge recommended.


• Computer with an internet connection
• Prototyping tools: pen and paper, Figma, Google Sketch, Illustrator, Balsamiq, or any other preferred tools for sketching and iteration.
• All book chapters and readings will be provided for students.

Course Goals

• Create a final group project using the principles taught in this course using principles across UX and ethical, critical design.

• To give students actual frameworks and ideas for how to design equitably, and design for privacy and security.

Course Access

Unlimited access to the full class recording is available to all enrolled students. Whether you couldn’t make it to class or want to refresh on some of the concepts, Gray Area will provide all enrolled students with a direct link.

Class Outline

Unlimited access to the full class recording is available to all enrolled students. Whether you couldn’t make it to class or want to refresh on some of the concepts, Gray Area will provide all enrolled students with a direct link.

Week 1 – Saturday, April 17, 2021
What Are We Doing and How Did We Get Here? 

Nothing is perfect, but not every methodology can or should work for you. Let’s re-think Human-Centered Design. In this class we will go over how products are currently made, and identify the drawbacks often associated with Human-Centered Design. We will also look at activist and internet freedom movements, as well as examples of the tech made by communities and activists.

Week 2 – Saturday, April 24, 2021
What is Trust, Agency, Consent, Legibility and Transparency In Design? 

This week we will unpack buzzwords, and different ethic software guidelines. We will start working in groups to prototype and learn how to critique and iterate while designing. Students will get familiarized with ideating by picking a technology or product and changing it. We will focus on privacy, threat modeling, and different global perspectives when learning how to design for marginalized users. In this class, we will also tentatively come up with a final project idea to work on outside of class.

Week 3 – Saturday, May 1, 2021
Use Cases, and Personas

This week will focus on use cases, and persona building. Additionally, we will talk about harm, misinformation, surveillance, harassment, and how privacy and security play into safety. Groups will present their in-progress projects.

Week 4 – Saturday, May 8, 2021
Figuring Out The Why and Defining Problem Statements and Learning to Co-Design: Working with Experts, Activists and Stakeholders

This lecture will challenge the conception that designers ‘solve problems’ without engaging on the ground research. We will be citing Design Justice to confront this misconception, and looking at ‘inclusive design, accessibility and disability. We will also dig into the participatory research process, how to do a landscape analysis, and how to meaningfully work with communities. Groups will continue to iterate on their project ideas. A guest lecturer will be joining us.

Week 5 – Saturday, May 15, 2021
Using Research Findings to Ideate 

In this class, we’ll learn about user research, user testing, and validating assumptions. We will do different design exercises such as: how might we’s (reconfigured), crazy 8s, idea sorting, how to craft a user research script, and how to securely/safely store this information and engage with participants remotely. Students will also present their in-progress project.

Week 6 – Saturday, May 22, 2021
Final Class

Students will show presentations on the project what their groups have created. The class will have a short, final lecture on how to launch a product and take in feedback as the product continues to iterate. A guest lecture will be joining us to help give feedback to students.


Caroline Sinders is an award winning critical designer, researcher, and artist. For the past few years, they have been examining the intersections of artificial intelligence, intersectional justice, systems design, harm, and politics in digital conversational spaces and technology platforms. They have worked with the United Nations, Amnesty International, IBM Watson, the Wikimedia Foundation, and others. Sinders has held fellowships with the Harvard Kennedy School, Google’s PAIR (People and Artificial Intelligence Research group), Ars Electronica’s AI Lab, the Weizenbaum Institute, the Mozilla Foundation, Pioneer Works, Eyebeam, Ars Electronica, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Sci Art Resonances program with the European Commission, and the International Center of Photography. Their work has been featured in the Tate Exchange in Tate Modern, the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans, Telematic Media Arts, Victoria and Albert Museum, MoMA PS1, LABoral, Wired, Slate, Hyperallergic, Clot Magazine, Quartz, the Channels Festival, and others. Sinders holds a Masters from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.