We are pleased to have Veronica Barassi, Professor of Media and Communications studies and author of ‘Child.Data.Citizen – How Tech Companies Are Profiling Us from before Birth’ https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/child-data-citizen join us for our first ART-AI seminar of 2021, entitled ‘Child Data Citizen: How Tech Companies are Profiling Us from Before Birth’
Book Talk – Child Data Citizen: How Tech Companies are Profiling Us from Before Birth
The Child | Data | Citizen book explores the datafication of children and its democratic implications. Today, for the first time in history we are tracking individual children from long before they are born. From the moment in which a child is conceived, important biometric information is uploaded on social media or pregnancy apps. As children grow up, most of their health and educational data is digitized, archived and sold by privately owned corporations. All these different forms of data monitoring and processing are just the tip of the iceberg. The picture becomes much more complex if we consider the role played by home hubs, artificial intelligence devices, and facial recognition technologies. What is becoming obvious is that children’s personal information is now being collected, archived, sold and profiled in ways that were not possible before. Child | Data | Citizen talks directly about this transformation, and critically reflects on its implications for our society and our democratic futures.
The book focuses on four different typologies of children’s data: health data, education data, home life data and social media data. It has been written by an anthropologist and a parent, who spent three years working with families in the UK and the US and analyzing the complex ways in which children’s data is being produced, collected, aggregated, and shared. The author combines intimate stories about data-tracking in family life, parental consent, and ‘sharenting’ with a critical investigation into the privacy policies, business models, patents applications and sharing agreements that allow companies and other agents to mine children’s data.
Child | Data | Citizen argues that when we think about children’s data traces the question at heart is not only one about privacy, but about how these data traces may be used by AI systems and predictive analytics to profile them throughout their lives, and define them in public, as citizens. By engaging with critical question about algorithmic bias, AI ethics and data justice, the book asks what are the social and political implications of building a society where data traces are made to talk for and about citizens across a life-time? And how can we protect ourselves when we realize that the ‘predictions’ and narratives that algorithms construct about individuals are reductionist, discriminatory and – in the case of children pre-emptive representations of who they are?
I am anthropologist and Professor in Media and Communication Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS-HSG) at the University of St. Gallen, as well as the Chair of Media and Culture at the MCM Institute (MCM-HSG). I was previously a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University of London, where I launched together with my colleagues the Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group. My work has appeared on top-ranked international journals and edited collections. My first book was the product of years of ethnographic research (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy) on digital participation and social media campaigning, and is titled Activism on the Web: Everyday Struggles against Digital Capitalism (Routledge, 2015). My new book, is the direct result of the Child | Data | Citizen project and is titled Child Data Citizen: How Tech-Companies are Profiling Us From Before Birth, and was published by MIT Press. The project has received attention from international research institutions and the press, with news stories appearing on The Guardian, The Times, Business Insider (Italy) and many other outlets. I have been invited to give talks at leading universities in the U.S. and the U.K. such as Stanford University, University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Irvine, Kings College London and the University of Westminster. My Ted Talk on What Tech Companies know about Children has reached more than 1.6 million views. At the moment, I am launching a new project titled The Human Error: AI, Human Rights and the Conflict over Algorithmic Profiling.