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Does Size Matter? A Tale of Performing Welfare, Producing Bodies and Faking Identity

Does Size Matter? A Tale of Performing Welfare, Producing Bodies and Faking Identity

Malavika Jayaram, Berkman Fellow

May 13th, 2014 at 12:30pm ET
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor

Big Data doesn’t get much bigger than India’s identity project. The world’s largest biometric database - currently consisting of almost 600 million enrolled - seduces with promises of inclusion, legitimacy and visibility. By locating this techno-utopian vision within the larger surveillance state that a unique identifier facilitates, Malavika will describe the ‘welfare industrial complex’ that imagines the poor as the next emerging market. She will highlight the risks of the body as password, of implementing e-governance in a legal vacuum, and of digitization reinforcing existing inequalities. The export of technologies of control - once they have been tested on a massive population that has little agency and limited ability to withhold consent - transforms this project from a site of local activism to one with global repercussions. By offering a perspective that is somewhat different from the traditional western focus of privacy, she hopes to generate a more inclusive discourse about what it means to be autonomous and empowered in the face of paternalistic development projects. She will highlight, in particular, the varied ways in which the project is already being subverted and re-purposed, in ways that are humorous and poignant.

About Malavika

Malavika is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, focusing on privacy, identity and free expression. She is also a Fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, and the author of the India chapter for the Data Protection & Privacy volume in the Getting the Deal Done series. Malavika is one of 10 Indian lawyers in The International Who's Who of Internet e-Commerce & Data Protection Lawyers directory. In August 2013, she was voted one of India’s leading lawyers - one of only 8 women to be featured in the “40 under 45” survey conducted by Law Business Research, London. In a different life, she spent 8 years in London, practicing law with global firm Allen & Overy in the Communications, Media & Technology group, and as VP and Technology Counsel at Citigroup. She is working on a PhD about the development of a privacy jurisprudence and discourse in India, viewed partly through the lens of the Indian biometric ID project.


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Past Event
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM