Globalization of Personal Data

(2003 to 2007)

An investigation of some of the many ways that personal data flow across borders, with a special focus on increased security concerns after 9/11, and the goal of highlighting and explaining the social, political and economic consequences of those flows.

A research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC), Initiative on the New Economy (INE), Collaborative Research Initiative

The Globalization of Personal Data (GPD) project 2003 - 2007

  • traces the paths of personal data flows as they cross national borders;
  • seeks out how ordinary people feel about the travels of their data, especially as they are used to profile them; and
  • explores the social, economic, political and cultural consequences of intensified personal data flows.

Theoretically, this is understood in terms of mobilities, globalization, and governance. Mobilities are the growing range of items that travel using transport or communications conduits; globalization has to do with the increasing sense that the world is one place, with consequent questions about how nation-states and corporations operate; and governance refers to ways in which social order and control is achieved in mundane ways in the structures and patterns of everyday life. The "ordinary people" in question are particularly those with roles as employees, customers, travelers, and citizens. In each case, personal data are generated to influence, manage, or otherwise process aspects of life, especially by sorting types of behaviours, images, transactional records or other bodily traces into categories in order to permit differential treatment of the persons and groups concerned. The project includes six kinds of activity: 1. The aftermath of 9/11 2. Integrated research clusters 3. International surveys 4. Theoretical development 5. International research workshops 6. Policy and practice networking