Privacy by default, not surveillance.
Self-governance of data is fundamental to the equitable functioning of the internet. We must all have the agency to determine how, for what purposes, when and for how long our data is used, shared and saved.
»Data has been called ‘the new oil’ by companies in the digital realm that are in a position to aggregate it. However, the value of our personal data – and the question of who should govern it – does not receive the same attention. While we might recognise the promise of algorithmic recommendations on the internet, few of us realise what these systems really do – namely, ring-fence all the quirky, unique aspects of who we are and magnify simplified representations of our identities (‘personas’) that can easily be categorised, ported and monetised.
The hidden cost of surrendering our data (with no way of tracking who’s using it) is that we become vulnerable to the simplification of our identities and risk exposing ourselves to round-the-clock surveillance. For some people, giving up personal data is a small price to pay for being pointed towards ‘books you may like’ or ‘songs recommended for you.’ But having personas that follow us wherever we go online equates to online stereotyping and, in some cases, digital ghettoisation.
People are not personas, and our identities do not command equal power or visibility in the world. Doesn’t the concept of data sovereignty rely on having the choice to allow my data to feed online algorithms or not?
The nonchalance of majoritarian groups who feel they have ‘nothing to hide’ facilitates the collection and classification of online data, which frequently marginalises already-marginalised people. As a woman who is Black, an immigrant, and also a parent, my identity is too often reduced to a one-dimensional persona – a mismatch which highlights how the experience of minoritisation online and in the real world not only mutually reinforce, but also exacerbate, each other.«
Who can inspire us with their work?
Based in marginalised neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina, Detroit, Michigan and Los Angeles, California, Our Data Bodies created the free Digital Defense Playbook, a workbook of popular education activities focused on data, surveillance and community safety which aim to co-create and share knowledge, analyses and tools for data justice, and data access for equity.
The book Good Data Practices for Indigenous Data Sovereignty, edited by Angela Daly, S. Kate Devitt and Monique Mann, describes and examines Indigenous data practices in a series of texts. »Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDS) and Indigenous Data Governance are Indigenous-led movements and practices through which Indigenous peoples are setting their own visions for good data regarding data generated and collected by and about them. IDS movements and practices can be seen as a manifestation of Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty more generally and as an alternative vision of data, centreing Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and autonomy. IDS also challenges conventional, western colonial data practices, which have been utilised against Indigenous peoples since colonisation and continue to be used against them in the digital environment. The authors set out the context for, and emergence of, IDS movements and provide an overview of IDS developments including the IDS networks such as Te Mana Raraunga, the Maori Data Sovereignty Network in Aotearoa/New Zealand.« – Quotation from the University of Arizona Indigenous Governance Database, by Stephanie Russo Carroll, Jennifer Walker and Tahu Kukutai.
Established in 2017, Body & Data works to enhance access to information on digital rights among women, queer people and minority groups, empowering them to understand how and where they can exercise their rights in a safe and just digital space. They work towards the vision of accessible, safe and just digital spaces for all. They do this through facilitating access to information, cross-movement building, knowledge building and disseminating information on digital rights in the context of Nepal.