Behind our Backs-A workshop about biometric and anthropometric data

Note: The following is a speculative workshop description. I have not yet held this workshop anywhere.

Behind our backs: Reclaiming anthropometric and biometric data

In the last hundred years, collecting data about human bodies has gone from a minor activity performed largely by doctors to a major industry. With more data points, more detail and more opportunities for collection, the question of access to data about our bodies is a pressing one. This session begins by offering a brief overview of the changing landscape of biometric and anthropometric data collection, before moving on to discussion and brainstorming about ways we can help individuals both protect and empower themselves. How can we take charge of data about our bodies? How can we push back against aggressive data collection and potential misuse?

This topic, for me, grows out of an increasing interest over issues of the governance of human bodies. A major theme in the work I am currently doing in pursuit of my PhD, the subject of anthropometric data is not often addressed, and not often brought up in discussions about mass surveillance. As we concern ourselves with issues like the NSA reading our email, we hand detailed data about our bodies over into equally insecure and suspect systems. That's pretty messed up.

This session will solicit ideas and feelings from participants about biometric and anthropometric data. In so doing, it will encourage participants to first think about the venues in which their biometric and anthropometric data is collected, and then to begin considering the implications of that collection. Participants will hopefully emerge from the session with an increased sense of understanding and also purpose around issues of public and private control of individual and aggregate biometric and anthropometric data.

45 minutes long: 25 minutes of set-up, covering a few key topics and sites of conflict in biometric and anthropometric data collection; 25 minutes of break-out brainstorming, in groups of ~5 (depending on the number of participants at the session); 10 minutes of reporting back, with groups sharing the strategies they've developed.