By Natasha Felizi and Joana Varon
We love our technological devices, but we have enough evidence that we are now in an abusive relationship with them. We even suspect they might be possessed by Chupadados, the Datasucker.
They are beautiful, they keep us company and make us feel attractive and supported. We fall in love with them and trust them with our most intimate secrets. They are our objects of desire and consumption. Until figure out they are actually controling what we do, monitoring who we meet and sharing information about our private lives with strangers.
Concepts like “Big Data,” "Smart Cities" and the “Internet of Things,” describe a belief that enormous data sets, analysed by computers with increased processing capacity and intelligent algorithms, would enable easier and more efficient results in sales, fight against crime, mobility, environmental protection, public security, health and in solving many other global problems. But how do these technologies work and whose interests do they serve?
Small sensors allow for our homes, bodies and several daily activities within the city to be completely digitalized. This means that our movements, consumer preferences, intimate thoughts, feelings and relationships are easily transformed into data -- valuable information that has been economically exploited.
The Datasucker's obscure intelligence realized that every search, click, like, share and even how long our mouse hovers over a specific image are information to be monetized. The success of his tactics depends on us believing that the information fed to the Datasucker is irrelevant, that we shall have nothing to hide and could exchange "a bit" of our data for accessing "free" services. Based on this ideology, a wide variety of services and platforms have emerged. As a result, the Datasucker logics possessed a significant amount of our technological devices and we feeding him on our own costs without even noticing. For example, each of the over 1 billion people that are on Facebook spends an average of at least 20 minutes per day liking, commenting and visualizing content. This represents more than 300,000,000 hours per day of work delivered for free, even though essential for the Datasucker’s survival. This successful narrative has led to an adoption of this model not only by information technology companies but also, and increasingly, by insurance companies, real estate agencies, banks, public managers and even the police.
This system means that we, alongside our tech pets, are constantly working without payment to build more and more detailed profiles. These profiles are exploited for diverse purposes, ranging from marketing to scientific analyses, crime prevention and the identification of suspicious behavior. Decisions made based on data-generated profiles have started to determine, in a highly simplified and suspicious way, who we are, what content we are shown or not shown, and what types of products are offered to us, what political information we should or should not be able to access, what we can and can’t say, share or see, and what borders or territories we can cross. They can also determine which people are more likely to commit crimes, violate rental contracts, assume debt or have certain types of illnesses or behaviors in response to an established order.
Though they are very detailed, these data-generated profiles are prone to calculation errors and biased judgments. Technologies seek to solve problems, but the formulation of the problem and the solutions depends on who develops them. They can reproduce the political and social ideals of their creators and contribute to reproducing existing injustices, such as racial, class and gender-based discrimination. The Datasucker promotes false belief that data and algorithms produce objective, neutral and true analyses, which has tended to reinforce and legitimate inequalities. In order to confront this hidden side of our tech pets, we are publishing stories about how surveillance mechanisms are working for the Datasucker. We have used them, alongside governments and businesses, to track people in their cities, homes, pockets and bodies.
In recent years, we have spoken of “smart cities” as positive and unquestionable progress. However, our cities have become a feast for the Datasucker through our wide variety of apps and connected devices, through the chips in our credit and transportation cards and through other systems of surveillance that business and governments have implemented. We need to pay attention to the false impressions imbedded in, for example, the discourse that more cameras will bring about more security for cities and ask whom we are informing about where, how, and with whom we move about.
Read in City:
The use of digital technologies did not only change the way we organize our internal space and personal life, it also meant that connected objects could start to codify our domestic habits and behavior patterns. Now that we have brought the Datasucker into our homes, we need to understand what this not-very-trustworthy entity is doing with our information.
Read in Home:
We are sure the Datasucker can be found in the pockets of a large segment of the population, however, few know it takes information from your cell phone in order to reach your wallet. He understands your consumption profile, estimates your purchasing power and can shower you with advertisements as well as influence the prices of what you are being offered.
Read in Pocket:
Period trackers, sports apps, health apps, dildos, thermometers, and menstrual cups connected to the internet. Thanks to these devices, today we can turn illness, sexuality, calories and menstrual blood into information, number and value. The Datasucker interprets this information just as you suspect. With a shady mind, he imposes normative ideas about your weight, health and sex life, and goes around sharing your intimate information. Annoying, right?
Read in Body: