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The politics of data-driven governance

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The use of data and algorithmic processes for decision-making is now a growing part of social life. Digitally monitoring, tracking, profiling and predicting human behaviour and social activities is what underpins the information order now frequently described as surveillance capitalism. Increasingly, it is also what helps determine decisions that are central to our ability to participate in society, such as welfare, education, crime, work, and if we can cross borders. How should we understand what is at stake with such developments? Often, we are dealt a simple binary that suggests that the issue is one of increased (state-)security and efficiency on the one hand and concerns with privacy and protection of personal data on the other. Recently, we have also seen a growing focus on questions of bias, discrimination and ‘fairness’ enter this debate. In this talk I will take stock of these concerns and present research that examines the implementation of data-driven systems in practice across pertinent sites of governance. I will make the case that we need to understand data systems as part of broader societal transformations, placing much greater emphasis on why these technologies are developed and implemented in the first place and how data practices relate to other social practices, rather than only focusing on the data system itself.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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