It has been interesting to engage in community building these past couple of weeks. I have found hope in seeing so many amazing people committed to data justice and willing to have the uncomfortable conversations that it requires.
Strategic litigation against big techs
I was delighted to get to know the work of the Digital Freedom Fund on evidence gathering for strategic litigation. As Tim and I have been discussing the role of the law in a collective approach to data governance and how the judicial system has been taking the leading on those discussions in Brazil following the societal mobilisation behind consumer law since the ’90s, it was interesting to hear some of the challenges and possibilities within the European scenario. Interestingly enough, many of their learnings resonate with what we have seen in our case studies, particularly in storytelling and community building.
Any strategic approach involves considering the need for different strategies depending on the outcomes being pursued and the socio and political scenarios in which a certain action will be taken. Crafting specific stories to specific aims is part of acknowledging the communication and expertise gap between different actors, from policymakers to judges and technologists.
Filling out this gap and strengthening the communication channels between these actors falls within our internal discussions of building trust to achieve legitimacy.
Essential Workers’ Health Data during the COVID-19 Pandemic
I was also happy to attend Data & Society’s “Unprotected: Health Data and Surveillance of Essential Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic”. The webinar presented their findings after interviewing essential workers in the U.S. It was frustrating to learn that the people who risked their lives during the pandemic were left in an information void, not knowing who in their workplace had tested positive for COVID-19 in a timely manner. Ultimately, the governance of their health data was carried out with complete disregard for their interests and concerns, and they had to take into their own hands the challenge of gathering and sharing information “through word-of-mouth contact tracing.”
Their methodology, which involved compensating participants for their time and Spanish translation during the webinar, also made me think about knowledge production and decolonial research. As someone who does not have English as their mother tongue, I understand the importance of initiatives such as simultaneous translation. I just wish to also see them in works that do not necessarily deal with those of lower socioeconomic status, as most workers to hold frontline positions were.
We had our second meet-up with the fellows at Connected by Data! Apart from getting to know brilliant and interesting people from different parts of the world, discussing some writing struggles in a safe environment was really special. When things get tough, it is usually easy to think we are alone or are the only ones going through something, but sharing our challenges helps us to get closer and more relatable. And it is also an opportunity to learn possible tools to manage it - such as going where your energy is or just writing whatever to kick start and overcome a writing blockage.