podcastJuly 16 2015

Biometric technologies and power

Malavika Jayaram

Databite No. 46

The growth of the Identity State is premised on the administrative fantasy that citizens can be grasped, fixed, and rendered stable in the state’s imagination. Biometric technologies are seen as core to this act of fixation, despite criticisms about the instability of the body, the racialized unevenness that these techniques embody, and the normalization of surveillance and social sorting that they embed into daily practices. Malavika uses the world’s largest biometrics identity database, the Aadhaar project in India, to unpack certain techno-utopian narratives in the developing world and describe the negotiations and hacks by which the subjects/objects of surveillance upend and disrupt power imbalances.

Malavika Jayaram is the inaugural Executive Director of Digital Asia Hub, a Hong Kong-based independent research think-tank incubated by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, where she is also a Faculty Associate.

A technology lawyer for over 15 years, she practised law at Allen & Overy, London, and was Vice President and Technology Counsel at Citigroup. She was featured in the International Who’s Who of Internet e-Commerce & Data Protection Lawyers, and voted one of India’s leading lawyers.

She taught India’s first course on Information Technology & Law in 1997, and has taught as adjunct faculty at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. She is on the Advisory Boards of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Mozilla’s Tech Policy Fellowship, and on the Executive Committee of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. Malavika is an Associate Fellow with Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs), as part of its Asia-Pacific Programme.

She is also a member of the High-level Expert Advisory Group to the OECD project, “Going Digital: Making the Transformation Work for Growth and Well-being.”

About Databites
Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.