Showing posts with label digital privacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label digital privacy. Show all posts

Friday, October 26, 2018

My paper 'Decolonizing Privacy Studies' is out in the TV & New Media Journal

My paper 'Decolonizing Privacy Studies' is out in the Television & New Media Journal ! This is part of Stefania Milan and Emiliano Trere's Special issue, ‘Big Data from the South: Beyond Data Universalism.' I presented this earlier at the Amsterdam Privacy Conference in October 2018 so thrilled its out in time.

Basically, this paper calls for an epistemic disobedience in privacy studies by decolonizing the approach to privacy. As technology companies expand their reach worldwide, the notion of privacy continues to be viewed through an ethnocentric lens. It disproportionately draws from empirical evidence on Western-based, white, and middle-class demographics. We need to break away from the market-driven neoliberal ideology and the Development paradigm long dictating media studies if we are to foster more inclusive privacy policies. This paper offers a set of propositions to de-naturalize and estrange data from demographic generalizations and cultural assumptions, namely, (1) predicting privacy harms through the history of social practice, (2) recalibrating the core-periphery as evolving and moving targets, and (3) de-exoticizing “natives” by situating privacy in ludic digital cultures. In essence, decolonizing privacy studies is as much an act of reimagining people and place as it is of dismantling essentialisms that are regurgitated through scholarship.

This is part of a growing call for decolonizing the university, curriculum, the internet, and many more other critical realms. In other words, let's question the power structures that are normative and dictating our practice and seek to change it together so we can move forward with a more progressive and fairer science. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Speaking on panels at the Amsterdam Privacy Conference

Amsterdam Privacy conference kicks off this weekend. Am doing a number of presentations at this conference which makes this quite a hectic few days to come. To start with, I am presenting with my co-author René König on "Imagining the “diversity algorithm: Alternatives in ideological governance and their challenges." Basically, we bring together two discourses and fields of study that have rarely intersected – sociology of diversity and computing studies to arrive at new understandings of the challenges that we face in the embedding of ‘diversity’ as a value in the design of net-based technologies. Our paper maps tensions among different diversity-driven cultures alongside the challenges that come with operationalizing them through technological design. This demands a re-examining of what constitutes as exclusion and inclusion, what is boundary-making for fair representation, is visibility empowering, and other such critical questions.  The fact is that diversity is a rising concern, with the demand for re-examining boundaries of representation, perspectives and voices that shape society. Silicon Valley, for instance, is under fire for their homogenous programming teams inscribing their biases into the algorithms that influence our behaviour (Crawford 2016). Universities, boardrooms, and political parties are working at restructuring their organizational cultures and systems given their abysmal record on diversity (Ferreira 2015; Abbott, Green, and Keohane 2016). While this is a growing momentum, it is worth asking how this diversity movement will influence our digital infrastructures. Will the diversity-driven models lead to strengthening democracy? How do we situate meritocracy within these proposed digital configurations? As we play these specific imaginaries out, we present possible outcomes, begging the question of the kind of digital future that awaits with each of these ideological turns.

I also organized a panel on Data and the Global South alongside Linnet Taylor and her data justice team. Today, we see how a select number of Western-based technology companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple have achieved the monopolization of entire publics. Under the banner of ‘connecting the unconnected’, corporate social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp justify their growing expansion in the Global South. While harvesting our attention for profit is the global template, technology companies’ control over Global South nations has a far more powerful impact as they rule these lands with few laws and regulations impeding them. At times, they collude with the state by adhering to and even strengthening their surveillance practices, possibly fostering an even more fragile civic liberty. This process is complicated with the rise of privacy and data protection laws in many countries in the Global South. This panel brings together scholars working on the rising datafication within diverse regions such as Asia, Africa and Latin America. We will jointly investigate how contemporary global configurations of digital technology impact social inequalities and possibly create new forms of discrimination as well as opportunities for data justice. We will touch upon privacy rights in the Global South, surveillance of data subjects, global digital economies of exploitation, extraction and extension, decolonial computing and colonization of internets, algorithms and discrimination and data justice and resistance.

Lastly, will be on a group privacy panel to explore how to take this discourse forward. My paper argues that popular contemporary approaches to the digital privacy culture of the global poor is at risk of falling along a long reproduced socio-political continuum. Specifically, three dominant templates make the round concerning privacy values of the global poor: privacy is a luxury for this disadvantaged group, they dont care about their privacy and that privacy to them is utility driven.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Invited to the Advisory Commission initiative by Facebook

I have been invited to be on the new advisory committee by Facebook to help scholars independently assess Facebook’s impact on elections, misinformation, privacy and other contemporary and critical issues regarding its usage.
 In April, Facebook announced it would be working with a group of academics to establish an independent research commission to look into issues of social and political significance using the company’s own extensive data collection. That commission, called Social Science One has just launched in early July. I will be on the Asian regional committee and partake in collaborations to assess the impact of Facebook in this region.

In the last two years, Facebook tools have not just helped politicians connect with their constituents — and different communities to debate the issues but as we have witnessed, it can be misused to manipulate and deceive. 

To keep this independent, it will be funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Charles Koch Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

At the heart of this initiative will be a group of prominent and global scholars who will:
-          Define the research agenda;
-          Solicit proposals for independent research on a range of different topics; and
-          Manage a peer review process to select scholars who will receive funding for their research, as well as access to privacy-protected datasets from Facebook which they can analyze.

Facebook will not have any right to review or approve their research findings prior to publication. In consultation with the foundations funding the initiative, Facebook has invited respected academic experts to form a commission which will then develop a research agenda about the impact of social media on society — starting with elections. I am excited to be part of the commission to closely examine Facebook activities and its implications on democracy to help in constructing future policy decisions on platform transparency and accountability.

The issues to be addressed range across diverse research areas, namely Political Advertising, Civic Engagement, Election Integrity, Polarization and Disinformation. The regional advisory committees include Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the United States.

Along with a team of other academic experts, I will assist in surfacing research questions and variable requests for the datasets that will be shared as part of the project.  Scholars serving on these committees can apply for grants and data access as part of these processes.

The advisory committee will provide critical advice on how the project might be best tailored to deal with concerns and issues specific to different regions.  For example, as specific elections occur in the respective regions, country-specific datasets are developed for analysis. Moreover, certain academic surveys are region-specific and these committees may help facilitate the joining of Facebook data with such surveys. Finally, because different countries’ legal regulations, concerning privacy and research such as this, differ greatly, the advisory committee will assist the project in working with regulators to understand the limits and opportunities for the project in the respective regions. 

Anyway, a new adventure awaits with this unique opportunity! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

LSEImpactBlog out on Facebook as the Internet and the digital romance economy

Check out my blog on the London School of Economics Impact Blog regarding Facebook and the Digital Romance Economy.

Brief overview...

Through the controversial internet.org initiative, Facebook now serves as The Internet to the majority of the world’s marginalized demographic. The Politics of Data series continues with Payal Arora discussing the role of Facebook and internet regulation in the global South. While the West have had privacy laws in place since the 1970s, the emerging markets are only now seriously grappling with this. This piece explores some of the unfolding areas of vulnerability in the digital romance economy.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New article out on big data and the global south

Last year, I initiated the Privacy and the global South Project with fieldwork on digital privacy in the favelas of Brazil, townships of South Africa and the slums of India. Its been an exciting year and while at it, big data is one of those topics that dominate this discussion. So, wrote a thought piece on this for Discover Society which just came out. Check it out if you are interested in how conversations on surveillance, privacy, big data and trust transfer to this much neglected setting and populace. 
Big data and the global south project


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Book out! The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0 (Routledge)




About the book: There is much excitement about Web 2.0 as an unprecedented, novel, community-building space for experiencing, producing, and consuming leisure, particularly through social network sites. What is needed is a perspective that is invested in neither a utopian or dystopian posture but sees historical continuity to this cyberleisure geography. This book investigates the digital public sphere by drawing parallels to another leisure space that shares its rhetoric of being open, democratic, and free for all: the urban park. It makes the case that the history and politics of public parks as an urban commons provides fresh insight into contemporary debates on corporatization, democratization and privatization of the digital commons. This book takes the reader on a metaphorical journey through multiple forms of public parks such as Protest Parks, Walled Gardens, Corporate Parks, Fantasy Parks, and Global Parks, addressing issues such as virtual activism, online privacy/surveillance, digital labor, branding, and globalization of digital networks. Ranging from the 19th century British factory garden to Tokyo Disneyland, this book offers numerous spatial metaphors to bring to life aspects of new media spaces. Readers looking for an interdisciplinary, historical and spatial approach to staid Web 2.0 discourses will undoubtedly benefit from this text.

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So, I had the idea for this book way back in my student days at Columbia and it even reached a point of crisis. I was torn between two topics as some of you may have experienced as a doctorate student- of staying with my topic and conducting ethnographic fieldwork on social computing in the Himalayas or taking on this new topic which required a more sociological/ interdisciplinary lens and an extra 2 years.Changing mentors, methods, plans!! I chose the former and thankfully I did as it was an amazing and unforgettable experience in the field. It got published by Ashgate titled, 'Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas.' 

When I came to Holland, the idea still persisted; hovered in the back of my mind constantly, so I decided to pursue it. After all, if an idea nags you this much and stays with you for years, then you owe it! You need to see it through and so that's what I did. I wrote a couple of grants for it and was super happy when I learnt that I had won the EUR Fellowship that would give me two years of funding to just write this book! What a rare luxury in academia. So I guess persistence pays :) 

 It has been tremendous fun working on this as it has taken me to such different disciplines and scarily, made me an expert on every possible type of park you can think of :) It took me to the field of architecture, urban planning, cultural geography and law. What a trip!

So yes, this book is definitely interdisciplinary. People love to encourage it. The challenge though about pursuing this track is that often you get punished for it. You have no one home that you can be truly loyal to and somehow academia demands loyalty; academia is all about territoriality. And not to forget that you are encroaching on fields and pastures that you are unfamiliar with and then demanding  from yourself something thoughtful and reflective of that field. That was by far the hardest part of this book but also the most rewarding!

So when it came to reviewers for the book, of course I chose diverse disciplines as I could not commit to one- it just would not reflect the efforts of this book: top scholars  such as Saskia Sassen (sociologist), Paul Adams (geographer), Arjun Appadurai (anthropologist), and Zizi Papacharissi (media scholar) volunteered to review this book. I have to admit, it was nerve-wrecking but am so happy that when the reviews came out, they were positive! So perhaps interdisciplinary work can work sometimes :-) 

Here are the Reviews! 
"Arora offers us another invitation, which is a refreshing departure from the breathlessness of many studies of the new technologies, and that is the chance to slow down, to pause, to contemplate our surroundings, to smell a possibly political rose. That she finds this potential in the very heart of digitality is one of the many surprises of this thoughtful and wide-ranging book." - From the Foreword by Arjun Appadurai,Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New YorkUniversity

"This is a brilliant navigation of worlds that are not usually brought in conversation: digital space and thick situated struggles engaged in claim-making in the urban sphere. Payal Arora has deep knowledge and experience of both these worlds. Out of this encounter comes a concept the author deploys in diverse ways to mark digital space: the leisure commons." - Saskia Sassen, Columbia University and author ofExpulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

"In this engaging volume, Arora applies the rich metaphor of the public park to explicate the many ways in which net-based technologies facilitate, but also converge activities of a social, political, cultural and economic nature. Technology as architecture invites, amplifies, but also conceals or discourages. It disrupts and it sustains our daily endeavors into sociality, work, play and fantasy. Arora uses the metaphor of public parks to tell the story of how digital media support us through our daily lives. Through lively writing and layers of intriguing analogies, she compels the reader to think with her, as she explores what technology does to space. Arora lays out an intriguing vision of online environments as technology supported meta-parks that facilitate not just limitless connection, but, better living." - Zizi Papacharissi, Professor and Head of Communications,University of Illinois at Chicago


"Payal Arora offers the insight that social media are the latest chapter in a long history of spaces including city parks, walled gardens, office parks, fantasy theme parks and other semi-public, leisure-oriented environments. By framing new technological trends in terms of a 'leisure commons,' her work fills a gap that remained between the spatial metaphors that have proven helpful to make sense of new technologies, and a nuanced realization of how thoroughly leisure practices have permeated daily life." - Paul C. Adams, Associate Professor of Geography andDirector of Urban Studies, University of Texas at Austin