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Turning Babies Into Big Data - And How to Stop It!

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(Presented at the Digitising Early Childhood conference, 12 September 2017.)

New parents, in both the months before the birth of a child and the early years of life, routinely invest huge amounts of time, energy and money in sourcing as much information as they can about good parenting practices. Increasingly, this investment includes a range of apps, from pregnancy apps which provide normalized information about what to expect on a day to day basis during pregnancy, through to various apps links to monitoring devices, both manual and digital, during pregnancy and infancy. Far from just providing information, many of these apps now encourage parents to undertake specific monitoring and surveillance practices to capture large amount of data about their child. This data is often then aggregated by the corporations behind these reassuring apps – corporations which are driven by profit, and often see the aggregated data about the unborn or infants as a resource which can be aggregated, analysed and the outcomes eventually monetized. The commercial imperatives are often masked or overlooked by parents, who undertake this intimate surveillance with the very best intentions. While the argument here is not against the value of data and observation in specific circumstances, as part of considered practice to combat a specific illness or issue. Rather, I argue against the widespread and indiscriminate push to track, survey, encode, aggregate and analyse a wide range of activities from conception to the early years of childhood. In effect, the issue raised here is why so much data being collected about the unborn, babies and infants; how is this aggregated big data being used; and in which circumstances new parents should be better informed to allow them to decide on appropriate limits on their babies being turned into big data.

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Turning Babies Into Big Data - And How to Stop It!

  1. 1. A/Prof Tama Leaver, Internet Studies Turning Babies Into Big Data— And How to Stop It! 12.09.2017@tamaleaver
  2. 2. @tamaleaver This talk is … ✘not an argument against the huge utility and ongoing potential of digital, social and networked technologies for parents and young people ✘not a refutation of digital tracking or monitoring of young people in specific, well-defined and well-bounded circumstances (including medical contexts)  an argument for taking children’s rights, including privacy, seriously in all contexts from birth  a warning about some ways tech start-ups and social media platforms extract, aggregate and commercially exploit ‘big’ data about babies and young children.
  3. 3. @tamaleaver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MazRijiayAU Who am I? (through the eyes of a 7-year old)
  4. 4. @tamaleaver Overview. 1. Shifting Contexts of Identity and Surveillance Online 2. Intimate Surveillance: Ultrasounds & Infant Wearables 3. From Intimate Surveillance to Co-Creation? Image:http://theindependent.ca/2012/03/21/introducing-the-ibaby/
  5. 5. I. Shifting Contexts of Identity and Surveillance Online
  6. 6. @tamaleaver ‘Identity’ Shifting Online  Push toward real-name and persistent identities (van Dijck, 2013b; van Zoonen, 2013)  Identity as persistent, replicable, searchable (boyd, 2010) and owned (Aufderheide, 2010)  Challenges of context collapse & context collision (Nissenbaum, 2009; Marwick & boyd, 2011; Davis & Jurgenson, 2014)
  7. 7. @tamaleaver The Shift to Real Names (nymwars) … Single database point. All activity connected …
  8. 8. @tamaleaver The Networked Self  Individual agency is central.  Presumption that identity should be controlled, curated and managed by the ‘self’ being presented.  When agency is not the controlling influence, this is seen as an issue to be overcome (eg better privacy settings).  BUT what about identities not tied to users with agency? (eg babies and young children!)
  9. 9. @tamaleaver Changing Surveillance Landscape  Datafication: all social activity is being tracked and digitized  "dataveillance—the monitoring of citizens on the basis of their online data—[which] differs from surveillance on at least one important account: whereas surveillance presumes monitoring for specific purposes, dataveillance entails the continuous tracking of (meta)data for unstated preset purposes" (van Dijck, 2014, p. 205).
  10. 10. @tamaleaver “Surveillance is the business model of the internet. Everyone is under constant surveillance by many companies, ranging from social networks like Facebook to cellphone providers. This data is collected, compiled, analyzed, and used to try to sell us stuff. Personalized advertising is how these companies make money, and is why so much of the internet is free to users. We’re the product, not the customer.” - Bruce Schneier, 2017
  11. 11. @tamaleaver Lateral / Peer Surveillance “we are becoming habituated to a culture in which we are all expected to monitor one another—to deploy surveillance tactics facilitated at least in part by interactive media technologies —in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones and to maximise our chances for social and economic success” (Andrejevic, 2007, p. 239).
  12. 12. @tamaleaver Parents: Framing Online Identities?
  13. 13. @tamaleaver Intimate Surveillance “the purposeful and routinely well-intentioned surveillance of young people by parents, guardians, friends, and so forth. The surveyed have little or no agency to resist. On one level, intimate surveillance points to the limits of most surveillance models, in that they are incomplete in trying to address subjects who have no agency or awareness of the means of resistance (for obvious reasons).” (Leaver 2015a, p. 153)
  14. 14. II. Intimate Surveillance: Ultrasounds & Infant Wearables
  15. 15. @tamaleaver NB: Pregnancy Apps & Surveillance  “dominant feature of pregnancy-related apps is the representation of the foetus as already a communicative person in its own right” (Lupton and Thomas, 2015)  Ultrasound image-sharing on Instagram and elsewhere widespread, disclosing personal info (Leaver, 2015a)  “‘device-ification’ of mothering” (Johnson, 2014)  the “co-construction of prenatal life” (Seko & Tiidenberg, 2016, p. 57)
  16. 16. @tamaleaver
  17. 17. @tamaleaver “ultrasound” on Instagram, March-May 2014. Table 1. #ultrasound tagged media on Instagram, 2014 Images Videos Overall Media March 3468 151 3619 April 3847 128 3975 May 3575 151 3726 3-Month Totals: 10890 430 11320 Leaver, T., & Highfield, T. (2016). Visualising the ends of identity: pre-birth and post-death on Instagram. Information, Communication & Society, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1259343
  18. 18. @tamaleaver Table 2. #ultrasound tagged images on Instagram, 10-11 March 2014 Total number of Instagram media items 295 Items deleted or made private within a fortnight 19 Sonograms 221 Sonogram without personally identifiable metadata 145 (66% of sonograms) Sonograms with personally identifiable metadata 76 (34% of sonograms) Collages / Professional Photos 45 Social experience of sonogram 22 Selfie 14 Historical sonogram 4 Sonogram humour 4 Other medical ultrasound (not foetal sonogram) 22 Advertising 4 Irrelevant 7
  19. 19. @tamaleaver Ultrasounds with personally identifiable text in the photo  76 photos (34% of the set) included personally identifiable information in the photo (usually generated by the ultrasound equipment)  Typically includes mother’s full name, mother’s DOB, medical facility, estimated gestation period to date, date of the scan, etc.
  20. 20. @tamaleaver Table 1. Instagram Timeline 6 October 2010 Instagram app launched via Apple’s App Store 12 December 2010 1 million registered users 3 August 2011 150 million photos uploaded September 2011 10 million registered users 3 April 2012 Instagram releases Android version 9 April 2012 Facebook purchases Instagram for $US1 billion 26 July 2012 80 million registered users 16 August 2012 Instagram Photo Maps launched 5 November 2012 Instagram Profiles for the Web launched 5 December 2012 Instagram removes ability for photos to appear as ‘cards’ on Twitter 17 December 2012 Instagram Alters Terms of Use 18 December 2012 Instagram reverts to previous Terms of Use after public backlash 26 February 2013 100 million active monthly users 20 June 2013 Instagram adds video (15-seconds maximum) 10 July 2013 Instagram adds native web embedding for photos and videos December 2014 Great Instagram Purge or Instagram Rapture . 18million+ spam accounts deleted 22 September 2015 400 million users (75% of those outside the US) 22 October 2015 Instagram/Facebook launch Boomerang looping video app 8 February 2016 Instagram adds multiple account support and account switching 2 June 2016 Instagram shifts users to an algorithmic (not chronological) view 21 June 2016 Instagram reports 500 million users; 300 million active daily; 80% of users are outside of the US 2 August 2016 Instagram adds Stories (lasting 24hrs, then self-deleting, privacy = who don’t you want to see them) 24 January 2017 Live video on Instagram Stories available to all users 22 February 2017 Multiple photos/videos in one post 26 April 2017 700 Million Users
  21. 21. @tamaleaver Google Smart Crib Patent (Awarded 2016)
  22. 22. @tamaleaver “Internet of Toys” (Holloway and Green, 2016)
  23. 23. @tamaleaver Owlet (Early version) http://owletcare.com/
  24. 24. @tamaleaver
  25. 25. @tamaleaver Owlet
  26. 26. @tamaleaver Owlet Product Vision https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fT9Vc68BfTI
  27. 27. @tamaleaver
  28. 28. @tamaleaver Owlet = Big Data “The thing that’s most interesting is we’re collecting the largest data set about infant health and sleep and wellness and safety that’s ever been collected.”
  29. 29. @tamaleaver Owlet = Tech Startup Company  $US9 million dollars in startup funding (TechCrunch, 2015)  Best Startup Award at CES 2016  Two products: • The Owlet Wearable device itself. • The collated big data collected from all infants wearing Owlet  The big profit expectations come from the BIG DATA sets and whatever insight these can offer.
  30. 30. @tamaleaver Review of Infant Wearables “medical professionals and consumers need to be aware that such devices have no proved use in safeguarding infants or detecting health problems, and they certainly have no role in preventing SIDS.” (King 2014, p. 2)
  31. 31. @tamaleaver "Until these monitors have been thoroughly evaluated and guidelines for use have been established, the recommendations physicians should give to parents who ask about these products is simple. There is no evidence that consumer infant physiologic monitors are life-saving, and there is potential for harm if parents choose to use them." -Christopher P. Bonafide et al, 2017 (Both false reassurance as well as false warnings!)
  32. 32. @tamaleaver Owlet Terms of Use This Application, the Services and our Monitor are not medical devices and are not intended to replace, modify or supplement any prescribed medical device. Further, this Application, the Services and Monitor are not for high risk infants and are not intended to be a substitute for obtaining medical advice and/or treatment from a physician or other health care practitioner. (Owlet Baby Care, 2016b).
  33. 33. Owlet Features
  34. 34. @tamaleaver  “sensor society” (Andrejevic and Burdon, 2015)  Design displaces other narratives (Rettberg, 2014).
  35. 35. HappilyEvaAfter.com
  36. 36. Positively Oakes
  37. 37. https://thoseheavenlydays.com/2017/03/22/rest-assured-indeed/
  38. 38. @tamaleaver Mimo Smart Baby Breathing and Activity Monitor
  39. 39. @tamaleaver
  40. 40. @tamaleaver http://mimobaby.com/about/ we’ve worked to bring our first product to market, we’ve learned a lot. For one, we’ve learned what parents truly want out of a monitor, so we built the Mimo Smart Baby Monitor, which gives parents a new level of insight into their baby’s sleep quality and activity. With our non-contact sensors, app, and real-time movement and breathing data, it’s the most accurate, comfortable, and (yes!) machine washable monitor on the planet. But we’re not stopping there. We believe in making products that simplify parents’ lives. So we’re developing a few other products that will communicate with each other and be accessible and controllable from a parent’s smart device - creating what we call “The Smart Nursery”.
  41. 41. @tamaleaver Integrated “Smart Nursery”
  42. 42. @tamaleaver
  43. 43. @tamaleaver Flow of Data?  Integration = ownership and exchange of data recorded by different devices (Mimo, Nest, etc) often under different terms.  Data surveillance + video surveillance integrated into one package.  ‘Non-identified’ data? Can this be re-associated with identities?  Longevity of data trails and footprints?
  44. 44. @tamaleaver Mimo, the first connected wearable baby monitor, and Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc., through its JOHNSON'S® BEDTIME® Baby Sleep App, have each studied hundreds of thousands of baby sleep patterns. By combining expert coaching and analytical systems in one app, the collaboration will provide parents with an advanced, sleep coaching system that helps parents get their babies to sleep better.
  45. 45. @tamaleaver Nod  Integration of TWO different collections of infant sleep data.  How are flaws and incompatibilities in this data sorted?  Are Mimo and/or Johnson’s customers aware their data is informing a third (presumably for-profit) app driven by the value of their infants’ aggregated sleep data?
  46. 46. @tamaleaver III. From Intimate Surveillance to Co-Creation?
  47. 47. @tamaleaver  infant wearables, of which the Owlet is for now the most well-known, are normalising parental practices of monitoring and surveillance.  Owlet encourages an intimate surveillance in which well- intentioned parents are recording their infant’s biometric data  Owlet aggregates and monetizes this as a valuable big data resource.  Owlet and related devices directly associate with good parenting with surveillance which is an association which is likely to persist as a child grows.
  48. 48. @tamaleaver Online Identity as Co-created?  Co-creativity (drawn from creative industries work, eg Banks & Humphreys 2008; Banks and Potts 2010) emphasises: 1.Focuses collaborative media creation. 2.Recognises unequal power relationship between companies and users. 3.Emphasises users as an active community, not just individuals.
  49. 49. @tamaleaver Parents and loved ones as identity co- creators?  Social media traces = media co-created (in many contexts, but awareness magnifies the impact of parental media and data creation and sharing)  Co-creation = shared responsibility for that media/data (eg onus to read or at least engage with Terms of Use, thinking through media/data longevity)  Community, not just individuals, emphasizes group impact (eg everyone who shares photos of babies).
  50. 50. @tamaleaver Overall Conclusions  Pregnancy and infancy are becoming monitored and datafied at an unprecedented scale, exemplified in the surveillance and aggregation of big data via infant wearables  Intimate surveillance from pregnancy onward is being normalised as a form of parental care and pathologising unplugged parenting as irresponsible  Models such as identity co-creation emphasise agency and responsibility as shared (eg between parents and children), moving beyond the emphasis on individual user agency  (Urgent) Future Work: (1) further map the extent and drivers of intimate surveillance; (2) surface, document and share resistant practices; and (3) better inform parents about the ramifications of the choices they are making for their babies and infants today.
  51. 51. @tamaleaver References  Abidin, C. (2015a). Communicative Intimacies: Influencers and Perceived Interconnectedness.❤ Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, (8). https://doi.org/10.7264/N3MW2FFG  Abidin, C. (2015b). Micro-microcelebrity: Branding Babies on the Internet. M/C Journal, 18(5). Retrieved from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/1022  Abidin, C. (2016). Visibility labour: Engaging with Influencers’ fashion brands and #OOTD advertorial campaigns on Instagram. Media International Australia, 1329878X16665177. https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X16665177  Andrejevic, M. (2007). iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era. Lawrence, Kan.: Univ Press of Kansas.  Andrejevic, M. (2013). Infoglut: How Too Much Information Is Changing the Way We Think and Know (1 edition). New York: Routledge.  Andrejevic, M., & Burdon, M. (2015). Defining the Sensor Society. Television & New Media, 16(1), 19–36. https://doi.org/10.1177/1527476414541552  Aufderheide, P. (2010). Copyright, Fair Use, and Social Networks. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (pp. 274–303). London & New York: Routledge.  boyd, danah. (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.  Davis, J. L., & Jurgenson, N. (2014). Context collapse: theorizing context collusions and collisions. Information, Communication & Society, 17(4), 476–485. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2014.888458  Dean, J. (2010). Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive. Cambridge: Polity.  Holloway, D., & Green, L. (2016). The Internet of Toys. Presented at the ANZCA: Creating space in the Fifth Estate, Newcastle, Australia.  Johnson, S. A. (2014). “Maternal Devices”, Social Media and the Self-Management of Pregnancy, Mothering and Child Health. 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  52. 52. @tamaleaver Questions or Comments? Or find me later … www.tamaleaver.net @tamaleaver t.leaver@curtin.edu.au

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