Tag Archives: civil liberties

Using digital technologies to tackle the spread of the coronavirus: Panacea or folly?

A new paper by Rob Kitchin (Programmable City Working Paper 44) examines whether digital technologies will be effective in tackling the spread of the coronavirus, considers their potential negative costs vis-a-vis civil liberties, citizenship, and surveillance capitalism (see table below), and details what needs to happen.

PDF of paper

Using digital technologies to tackle the spread of the coronavirus: Panacea or folly?

Abstract
Digital technology solutions for contact tracing, quarantine enforcement (digital fences) and movement permission (digital leashes), and social distancing/movement monitoring have been proposed and rolled-out to aid the containment and delay phases of the coronavirus and mitigate against second and third waves of infections. In this essay, I examine numerous examples of deployed and planned technology solutions from around the world, assess their technical and practical feasibility and potential to make an impact, and explore the dangers of tech-led approaches vis-a-vis civil liberties, citizenship, and surveillance capitalism. I make the case that the proffered solutions for contact tracing and quarantining and movement permissions are unlikely to be effective and pose a number of troubling consequences, wherein the supposed benefits will not outweigh potential negative costs. If these concerns are to be ignored and the technologies deployed, I argue that they need to be accompanied by mass testing and certification, and require careful and transparent use for public health only, utilizing a privacy-by-design approach with an expiration date, proper oversight, due processes, and data minimization that forbids data sharing, repurposing and monetization.

Keywords: coronavirus; COVID-19; surveillance; governmentality; citizenship; civil liberties; contact tracing; quarantine; movement; technological solutionism; spatial sorting; social sorting; privacy; control creep; data minimization; surveillance capitalism; ethics; data justice.

coronavirus tech issues

New Paper: Towards Critical Data Studies: Charting and Unpacking Data Assemblages and Their Work

Rob Kitchin and Tracey Lauriault have just published the second Programmable City Working Paper – Towards Critical Data Studies: Charting and Unpacking Data Assemblages and Their Work. It is a pre-print of a chapter written for the book, Geoweb and Big Data, edited by Joe Eckert, Andy Shears and Jim Thatcher, to be published by University of Nebraska Press.

Abstract
The growth of big data and the development of digital data infrastructures raises numerous questions about the nature of data, how they are being produced, organized, analyzed and employed, and how best to make sense of them and the work they do. Critical data studies endeavours to answer such questions. This paper sets out a vision for critical data studies, building on the initial provocations of Dalton and Thatcher (2014). It is divided into three sections. The first details the recent step change in the production and employment of data and how data and databases are being reconceptualised. The second forwards the notion of a data assemblage that encompasses all of the technological, political, social and economic apparatuses and elements that constitutes and frames the generation, circulation and deployment of data. Drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault and Ian Hacking it is posited that one way to enact critical data studies is to chart and unpack data assemblages. The third starts to unpack some the ways that data assemblages do work in the world with respect to dataveillance and the erosion of privacy, profiling and social sorting, anticipatory governance, and secondary uses and control creep. The paper concludes by arguing for greater conceptual work and empirical research to underpin and flesh out critical data studies.

Key words
big data, critical data studies, data assemblages, data infrastructures, civil liberties