16:45 - 17:15
Who is more real: me or my digital profile?

Short thesis

Sharing information is less and less our free choice. The society requires high visibility: those, who don't expose themselves become suspicious or excluded. But sharing is just the beginning. The real purpose behind it is profiling. Be that our insurance or health care scheme, unemployment benefit or school curriculum – more and more services depend not so much on who we are in reality, but on the quality of our digital profile. Who designs these algorithms? What business and political stakes are behind? Let's look at some examples...


Most Internet companies, when challenged on privacy grounds, respond "sharing everything is users' own choice". Is it really? More and more often we are forced to exist as a digital profile.

Our flight patterns will soon be used to determine what level of security risk we create for the society; our consumer profile may become the main proxy to determine our credit-worthiness; our credit-score opens or blocks access to other types of financial services (incl. insurance); teaching from primary schools to universities seeks "individualisation" based on heavy use of big data; unemployment and social security benefits in many countries come with intrusive questionnaires and screenings – from consumption records to health data.

Many companies offer discount schemes for those, who are prepared to share more: geo-location, shopping lists, exercise schemes... Who controls this game? Who knows the algorithm?

This talk will explore various contexts, in which citizens and human beings are reduced to their digital profiles and social consequences of this reduction. I will look at practical cases of profiling in private and public sector that involve important social or individual stakes (banking or insurance services, employment, public education, health-related services, social benefits). I will explain the fallacy of delegating decisions to algorithms and expose commercial interests behind this trend. Last but not least, I will look at the function of digital profiles from philosophical perspective: who is more real for the society – me or my profile?