The emergency rationalities of the COVID-19 pandemic have justified the widespread adoption of risk-solving sociotechnical solutions such as contact tracing apps, thermal cameras and vaccination certificates. These function as “regulatory data infrastructure”: they generate data with the goal of facilitating decision-making and/or monitoring society, including societal interactions and people’s movements. In so doing, regulatory data infrastructures are attributed functions that typically pertain to public administrations.
Their widespread adoption in the midst of the pandemic promotes a novel mode of governance which has data infrastructure at its core. But with public concerns over privacy risks lowered by the emergency, these developments might come at high societal costs. This conversation brings into dialogue five international scholars from disciplines as diverse as security studies, political geography, science and technology studies, critical data studies and computer science to discuss how governance by data infrastructure is changing post-pandemic democracy in Europe, with a focus on inequality and citizen agency.
Francesca Musiani is associate research professor at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) since 2014. She is Deputy Director of the Center for Internet and Society of CNRS, which she co-founded in 2019. She is also an associate researcher at the Center for the sociology of innovation (i3/MINES ParisTech) and a Global Fellow at the Internet Governance Lab, American University in Washington, DC. Her personal page is here and she tweets at @franmusiani.
Linnet Taylor is Professor of International Data Governance at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT), in the Netherlands. Her research focuses on digital data, representation and democracy, with particular attention to transnational governance issues. Her work on group privacy and data justice is used in discussions of technology governance in countries around the world. She leads the ERC Global Data Justice project, which aims to develop a social-justice-informed framework for governance of data technologies on the global level. The research is based on insights from technology users, providers and civil society organisations around the world. Her work is also currently supported by the Luminate foundation and the EU AI Fund. She is a member of the Dutch Young Academy (De Jonge Akademie) and a co-chair of the NWO’s Social Science roundtable advisory group.
Prof. dr. Luiza Bialasiewicz is a political geographer and Professor of European Governance at the University of Amsterdam, where she also co-directs the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES). Since 2013, she is permanent Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Natolin where she teaches an annual course on European Geopolitics. She is one of the editors of Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, a journal of critical and heterodox research into the relations between the political and the spatial.
Claudia Aradau is Professor of International Politics in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Her research has developed a critical political analysis of security practices. Her latest book is Algorithmic Reason: The New Government of Self and Other (with Tobias Blanke, Oxford University Press, 2022). Aradau is Principal Investigator of the European Research Council Consolidator Grant SECURITY FLOWS ‘Enacting border security in the digital age: political worlds of data forms, flows and frictions’ (2019-2024). She is on the editorial collective of Radical Philosophy and on the editorial boards of International Political Sociology, Politics and Security Dialogue.
Seda Gürses is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Multi-Actor Systems at TU Delft at the Faculty of Technology Policy and Management, an affiliate at the COSIC Group at the Department of Electrical Engineering (ESAT), KU Leuven, and a member of Constant VZW, a Brussels based feminist arts collective. Together with Miriyam Aouragh, Helen Pritchard and Femke Snelting, Seda recently founded The Institute for Technology in the Public Interest. Her work focuses on privacy enhancing and protective optimization technologies (PETs and POTs), privacy engineering, as well as questions around software infrastructures, social justice and political economy as they intersect with computer science.