Child Data Citizen
How Tech Companies Are Profiling Us from before Birth
232 pp., 6 x 9 in, 11 figures
- Published: December 22, 2020
- Published: December 22, 2020
An examination of the datafication of family life—in particular, the construction of our children into data subjects.
Our families are being turned into data, as the digital traces we leave are shared, sold, and commodified. Children are datafied even before birth, with pregnancy apps and social media postings, and then tracked through childhood with learning apps, smart home devices, and medical records. In Child Data Citizen, Veronica Barassi examines the construction of children into data subjects, describing how their personal information is collected, archived, sold, and aggregated into unique profiles that can follow them across a lifetime. Children today are the very first generation of citizens to be datafied from before birth, and Barassi points to critical implications for our democratic futures.
Barassi draws on a three-year research project with parents in London and Los Angeles, which included the collection of fifty in-depth interviews, a digital ethnography of “sharenting” activities on social media by eight families over the course of eight months, and a two-year exploration of the datafication of her own family. She complements her ethnographic findings with a platform analysis of four social media platforms, ten health tracking apps, four home hubs, and four educational platforms, investigating the privacy policies, business models, and patent applications that enable the mining of children's data. Barassi considers the implications of building a society where data traces are made to speak for and about citizens across a lifetime. What should we do when we realize that the narratives that algorithms construct about individuals are inaccurate and biased?
In this superb book, Barassi provides a rich and illuminating account of the way data about children is collected and used, why it matters, and what we can do about it.
Lina Dencik, Reader at Cardiff University and Co-Director of the Data Justice Lab
Critical concern about the rapid expansion in processing personal data from children must address the public as well as personal consequences, Barassi argues in this exciting new book, as individuals are represented as datafied citizens in a world reliant on algorithmic decision making.
Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics; author of Parenting for a Digital Future: How Hopes and Fears about Technology Shape Children's Lives
Drawing upon rich ethnographic case studies of digital platforms, properties and practices, Child | Data | Citizen enumerates how surveillance, datafication, and profiling precede and ultimately frame childhood, parenting, and social life. With a focused concern for the agency of our children, Barassi's research makes ever more urgent the political need to replace technological forms of social control with an agenda of care.
Greg Elmer, Professor, Bell Globemedia Research Chair, Ryerson University; author of Profiling Machines: Mapping the Personal Information Economy