We street proof our kids. Why aren’t we data proofing them?

Article page on The Conversation

My new post on the insecurity of children’s data and the need for data proofing is now up on The Conversation.

“Google recently agreed to pay a US$170 million fine for illegally gathering children’s personal data on YouTube without parental consent, which is a violation under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The United States Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General — who together brought the case against Google — now require YouTube to obtain consent from parents before collecting or sharing personal information. In addition, creators of child-directed content must self-identify to restrict the delivery of targeted ads.

The $170 million fine is a pittance given Alphabet Inc.’s (Google’s holding company) valuation of more than US$700 billion.

Our digital identities comprise data collected across our activities, making personal or identifying information irrelevant. Children today are subjugated to a scale of data collection and targeting that we cannot fathom. Right now, we also have no clue about the consequences, and regulatory protections to data-proof their futures are far from certain.

My ongoing research on how big tech and media conglomerates are using dark pattern design to bypass privacy regulations protecting personal information has revealed how vulnerable children are to data collection and how Canada’s legislation in particular is failing them.

Incomprehensible scale

For adults and children, Google has access to everything from search queries to online purchases to any app and website associated with gmail accounts – including deleted accounts – or linked via cross-browser finger-printing.

As a parent, you create a network of cross-connections when you input information to make purchases for your child online or set up accounts for your child on apps and websites. Added to this is all your child’s activity on YouTube and YouTube Kids, search data to clicks on recommended videos to rewinds and duration of play time.

Then add cross-browser fingerprinting and most recently, Google’s “GDPR workaround,” secret buried web tracking pages that act as pseudonymous markers that track user activity across the web.

This latter violation of data privacy was revealed in a complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commission filed the same day Google’s fine was made public.

We are talking about vast fields of data, the scale of which is difficult to comprehend; this data is used to feed Google’s artificial intelligence recommendation algorithms that now steer everything from employment application processes to dating apps…’

Read the full post on The Conversation.

World War Z’s Creepy In-Game Transmedia Campaign

Having thoroughly enjoyed Max Brook’s Zombie thriller novel, I’ve been wondering where the pre-launch transmedia campaign for World War Z is and last night I finally had some spare time to track it down.

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Cleverly named to stay in-game by hyping a growing crisis rather than the film’s end-of-days all-out War, the Crisis Zero website has a warning video, an alarming set of survival tips, links to a Twitter account posting intermittent updates since May 13, and a Facebook Alert Recruitment Tool to spread the ‘viral’ campaign.

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And if you follow the links in the Tweets you’ll find the CrisisZero2013 videos on YouTube. Judging by the number of views, which are comparatively small, the audience for these teaser videos hasn’t metastasized to its full viral potential (& yes, all the metaphorical uses of ‘viral’ seem totally appropriate here!).

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These teaser videos play deliciously with the premise of an unidentified growing, global infection by giving us snippet videos that hint at attacks or increased airport securitization & travel disruptions. This one below is a genius riff on the popularity of dashboard video cameras in Russia.Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 9.05.38 AM

Props to the transmedia designers for creating multi-lingual videos both from the ‘Official’ CrisisZero headquarters broadcasting to an affected/infected global audience and for the videos shared by alarmed citizens from around the world (India, Germany, Spain, Denmark, New Zealand). That a number are without subtitles for the English-speaking audience or have subtitles in other languages (French, Spanish) adds to the veracity of what are often the last messages these individuals will send.

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Meanwhile, the Facebook updates are tracking the growing scale of the airport shutdowns so with 4 days to go, I’ll be watching to see how the tipping point into global chaos of a zombie apocalypse is staged in this clever campaign.

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