Tag Archives: governmentality

New paper: Civil liberties or public health, or civil liberties and public health?

A new paper by Rob Kitchin has been published in Space and Polity examining the implications to civil liberties of using surveillance technologies to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

Civil liberties or public health, or civil liberties and public health? Using surveillance technologies to tackle the spread of COVID-19

PDF of paper

Abstract

To help tackle the spread of COVID-19 a range of surveillance technologies – smartphone apps, facial recognition and thermal cameras, biometric wearables, smart helmets, drones, and predictive analytics – have been rapidly developed and deployed. Used for contact tracing, quarantine enforcement, travel permission, social distancing/movement monitoring, and symptom tracking, their rushed rollout has been justified by the argument that they are vital to suppressing the virus, and civil liberties have to be sacrificed for public health. I challenge these contentions, questioning the technical and practical efficacy of surveillance technologies, and examining their implications for civil liberties, governmentality, surveillance capitalism, and public health.

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

 

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

Update: a revised version of this working paper has now been published as open access in Space and Polity.

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 working paper          (PDF of revised version in Space and Polity)

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: A smart place to work? Big data systems, labour, control, and modern retail stores

Leighton Evans and Rob Kitchin have published a new Programmable City working paper (No. 34): A smart place to work? Big data systems, labour, control, and modern retail stores.

Abstract

The modern retail store is a complex coded assemblage and data-intensive environment, its operations and management mediated by a number of interlinked big data systems. This paper draws on an ethnography of a superstore in Ireland to examine how these systems modulate the functioning of the store and working practices of employees. It was found that retail work involves a continual movement between a governance regime of control reliant on big data systems which seek to regulate and harnesses formal labour and automation into enterprise planning, and a disciplinary regime that deals with the symbolic, interactive labour that workers perform and acts as a reserve mode of governmentality if control fails. This continual movement is caused by new systems of control being open to vertical and horizontal fissures. While retail functions as a coded assemblage of control, systems are too brittle to sustain the code/space and governmentality desired.

Access the PDF here

New paper: Urban informatics, governmentality and the logics of urban control

Rob Kitchin, Claudio Coletta and Gavin McArdle have published a new Programmable City working paper (No. 25), ‘Urban informatics, governmentality and the logics of urban control ‘, on SocArXiv.

Abstract: In this paper, we examine the governmentality and the logics of urban control enacted through smart city technologies. Several commentators have noted that the implementation of algorithmic forms of urban governance that utilize big data greatly intensifies the extent and frequency of monitoring populations and systems and shifts the governmental logic from surveillance and discipline to capture and control.  In other words, urban governmentality is shifting from subjectification – molding subjects and restricting action – to modulating affects, desires and opinions, and inducing action within prescribed comportments.  We examine this contention through an examination of two forms of urban informatics: city dashboards and urban control rooms and their use in urban governance. In particular, we draw on empirical analysis of the governmental logics of the Dublin Dashboard, a public, analytical dashboard that displays a wide variety of urban data, and the Dublin Traffic Management and Incident Centre (TMIC) and its use of SCATS (Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System) to control the flow of traffic in the city.  We argue that there is no one governmentality being enacted by smart city technologies, rather they have mutable logics which are abstract, mobile, dynamic, entangled and contingent, being translated and operationalized in diverse, context-dependent ways.  As such, just as disciplinary power never fully supplanted sovereign power, control supplements rather than replaces discipline.

dashboard

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Preservation of Geospatial Data Primer

This document (French and English) is the last in a series that I wrote while in Canada on the preservation of geospatial data and I just received the finals today.  Fitting, since I have now been in Ireland for exactly one year today.  The past is however always part of the present and the future is it not?  In my view, the preservation of data should be part of any spatial data infrastructure and open data strategy.  It is simply part of the lifecycle management of a nations knowledge resources.  Data are modern artifacts as important as manuscripts, films or paintings.  If we invest so much in their capture, then we should also invest in their long term maintenance.

This primer is part of a series of Operational Policy documents developed by GeoConnections intended to inform Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) stakeholders about the nature and scope of digital geospatial data archiving and preservation and the realities, challenges and good practices of related operational policies.  GeoConnections produces a number of excellent documents on a wide range of contemporary data topics such as VGI, managing sensitive environmental data, data licences, data access, best practices for sharing data, open source, and a host of many others that are very relevant to governments world wide.

This primer starts by examining preservation responsibilities, legislation, acts, directives and policies.  3 preservation frameworks were also discussed:

  1. the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) (CCSDS, 2012), developed by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS);
  2. the European Long Term Preservation of Earth Observation Space Data: European LTDP Common Guidelines (LTDP Working Group, 2012), developed by the Long Term Data Preservation (LTDP) Working Group of the Ground Segment Coordination Body (GSCB); and
  3. the Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification (TRAC) Audit and Certification: Criteria and Checklist (OCLC and CRL, 2007), developed by the Center for Research Libraries and the Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

The stucture of the document loosely follows the The International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems (InterPARES) 2 record creator and preserver guidelines.  The work is grounded in the stufy of four cases were and includes challenges and best practices :

  1. The Canada centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) Earth Observation Data Management System (EODMS)
  2. Land Information Ontario (LIO) Geographic Information Archive (GIA)
  3. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Integrated Science Data Management Service (ISDM)
  4. International Polar Year (IPY) Data Preservation

Finally, the section on Establishing a Geospatial Data Preservation System guides data creators and preservers through a series of processes based on the frameworks, case studies, and guidelines.

GeoConnections has been studying the preservation and archiving of geospatial data since 2005. The following are the three reports in this series.

  1. Archiving, management and preservation of geospatial data summary report and recommendations (2005)
  2. Geospatial Data Archiving and Preservation – Research and Recommendations Executive Summary. (2011), Tracey P. Lauriault and Ed Kennedy, Hickling Arthurs and Low (HAL) NOTE – if you email me or GeoConnections, we can send you the full document.
  3. Geospatial Data Preservation Primer GeoConnections (2013) Tracey P. Lauriault, Ed Kennedy, with digital preservation subject matter expertise from Yvette Hackett, Library and Archives Canada Retired, reviewed by Marcel Fortin, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Map Librarian. Map and Data Library, University of Toronto. Hickling Arthurs and Low (HAL)

These documents are not for the faint at heart, but they inform practioners in all sectors, they are governmentality in action and are the datasets upon which critical data studies take shape.