Speaker: Rys Farthing

Affiliation: rysfarthing.com

Children and young people are now ‘datafied’ before they are even born; from pregnancy apps and heartbeat monitors to ultrasounds shared on social media, their data is extracted and shared before they even take their first breath. This data collection continues throughout childhood, from AI-enabled baby monitors to connected toys. One estimate suggests that in Advertising Tech alone, over 72 million data points are collected about children by the time they reach 13. The amount of data that is now held about younger generations is truly staggering and presents unique risks for the realisation of children’s rights.

Of all this data, the children and young people I speak with in Australia are most concerned about the collection and use of geolocation data. Children have a right to privacy, and this right is important to them. From childhood fantasies about finding secret gardens and hidden worlds like Narnia, to playing in hidden spots in the playground and out-of-view treehouses, private spaces have always been important to children (and scary for parents!). But it appears that this non-stop surveillance through geolocation data is both eroding children’s sense of imagination about private spaces and replacing it with worries about their personal safety. This discussion will look at what Australian young people have been saying about geolocation data, and the need for greater regulation around its collection and use.

Rys is policy wonk who focuses on children’s rights, especially around technology and disadvantage. She holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford where she was a Clarendon scholar, and a MSc from the LSE. Rys has held policy roles at civil society orgs like Reset Tech (Australia), 5Rights Foundation (UK), and Fairplay (US), and the APPG on Poverty. She has also held academia posts at Oxford and RMIT, and is a Research Associate at the Information Law & Policy Centre (University of London).