Dr Tegan Cohen is an Affiliate of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making & Society (ADM+S) from the Queensland University of Technology.

Tegan is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology. Tegan researches the governance and regulation of AI. Her present focus is on legal conceptions and responses to algorithmic bias and fairness in the private rental and broader housing sector. Her research also explores the ‘democratisation’ of AI governance, particularly the development of legal rights and mechanisms for effective public participation and contestability.

Tegan has taught undergraduate courses in privacy law, intellectual property, and internet regulation. Prior to joining QUT, she practised as a technology and privacy lawyer in Australia and internationally. She also spent time in the federal public service, including at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, working on issues relating to multilateral engagement.

Tegan holds bachelor’s degrees in Law and Arts from ANU and a PhD from QUT. Her doctoral thesis, The Datafied Polity, explored the democratic value of privacy in the context of data-driven, platform-mediated political campaigning.


Dr Tegan Cohen completed her PhD in July 2023 at QUT.

Thesis Title
The datafied polity: voter privacy in the age of data-driven political campaigning

In recent years, data-driven political campaigning has been at the fore of public discourse due to some high-profile scandals. Voter profiling, microtargeting and opaque digital advertising architecture are widely recognised as threats to privacy and electoral processes. However, accounts of what voter privacy is, why it matters, and how it is threatened by new and emergent campaigning practices vary. This conceptual confusion pervades the Australian laws which govern information privacy and elections.

Tegan’s doctoral thesis examines voter privacy, its value, how it is currently protected, and how it can and should be protected under Australian law, in the context of data-driven political campaigning.

In theory and in law, the role of privacy in political processes has traditionally been confined to sheltering autonomous individuals from the conforming and normalising pressures of collective life and the chilling effects of surveillance. The dominant paradigms offer an inadequate explanation of the value of voter privacy in the contemporary social and technological milieu and the harms which can flow from data-driven political campaigning. There is a growing chorus of voices calling for reform to enhance voter privacy protection. To justify and design appropriate legal interventions, we need a better understanding of what is at stake when the privacy of voters is diminished or lost.

The argument presented in the thesis is three-pronged. First, it argues that voter privacy is indispensable to free and informed democratic decision-making. Beyond merely enabling separation and differentiation from the collective, privacy is essential to the social aspects of democratic decision-making. By reducing voter privacy, data-driven political campaigning practices disrupt voters’ abilities to self-articulate preferences, views, and affinities, to produce and circulate ideas, to collectively deliberate and scrutinise. Second, Australian laws reflect an inconsistent and incomplete appreciation of the democratic value of voter privacy. Constitutional, common, and statute law are infused with assumptions derived from traditional notions of privacy as shelter for individuals from outside influence and coercion.

The ways in which Australian privacy and electoral law currently seek to guard against privacy invasion are ill-suited to the threats rife in data-intensive campaigning environments. Finally, the thesis proposes ways in which Australian laws can be reformed to address the current and emerging threats to voter privacy, which are grounded in an understanding of voter privacy as a collective interest essential to the social aspects of democratic decision-making.

Prof Nicholas Suzor
Dr Kylie Pappalardo
Mark Burdon