Git Integration for Legacy Software; The Commoditization of User Data in Web Services: A critique of the tech industry's data practices

Li, Harrison, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Rogers, Hannah, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Graham, Daniel, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Norton, Peter, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

This thesis portfolio will highlight a technical project in software engineering and a
sociotechnical privacy crisis in the data engineering industry.

“Git Integration for Legacy Software” details a project during a software engineering
internship at a defense contractor. A lead software engineer had the idea to integrate a version
control system into a legacy application to help with file recoverability. By the end of the
internship, the legacy application had the ability to track the files uploaded to the system. The
addition of this file tracker allows the client to view previous versions of the same file they are
currently using. Files get lost and damaged all the time, so having a second line of defense
against fileloss proved comforting for the client. The project showed that maintenance is not
equivalent to stagnation. Software in its maintenance phase has plenty of room to improve. New
feature ideas can come up spontaneously. Bugs are constantly being discovered as the client uses
their product.

Design in engineering has an overlooked human aspect. Good product design requires
engineers to understand the user. It allows a connection to thrive between the consumer and the
business. The consumer will feel heard and valued. Secondly, businesses are able to have outside
perspectives about their devices and services. This understanding can be obtained through critic
reviews, user interviews, surveys, and general empathy. These methods were the primary form of
data gathering prior to the internet and are still used today.

Companies now have alternative methods to effortlessly collect information about their
customers. User data has been commoditized in the internet age. Browsing habits, internet search
history, and frequented pages are all tracked by companies to be used in analytics or sold for
profit. Phones, computers, smartwatches, and cameras are found everywhere and constantly
report data to the cloud. Profiles can be built for users detailing their personal information and
interests. Privacy advocates see this publicity and transaction of information as an invasion of
privacy while many have no issue against their information being available. “The
Commoditization of User Data in Web Services: A critique of the tech industry’s data practices”
argues that data privacy should be a fundamental right to all internet users. The research paper
explores multiple cases of privacy invasion by Amazon, Zoom, and the US Government. The
original intentions of surveillance often appear harmless in the cases of terrorist prevention
programs and targeted advertisements. However, the implications of a monitored society is
oppression. This is because the surveyed people sacrifice their freedom of expression to look
impressionable to their surveyors. The objective of this research is to use the current state of data
privacy to promote data awareness in the reader.

The topic that relates legacy application projects to data privacy in the tech industry is
user experience. Both the intern working on legacy software and the engineers in the data driven
company want to understand the user and their struggles. This is so that they are able to improve
designs to create more effective products.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Data Privacy, Big Data, Surveillance

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Daniel Graham, Rosanne Vrugtman
STS Advisor: Hannah Rogers (SPR2022), Peter Norton (FALL2021)
Technical Team Members: Harrison Li

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