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Did you give permission? Datafication in the mobile ecosystem

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Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Our article presents a finely granulated perspective on the technical objects of datafication. We contend that such cross-disciplinary focus provides a more rigorous material grounding for a critical analysis of the socio-cultural and political economic effects of mobile actors expanding and extending personal data economies. We propose a two-part hypothesis. First, that the mobile is enabling a more mature phase of datafication. Second, that this phase is best understood by examining the relationality between mobile permissions and embedded, third party services known as SDKs (software development kits). Our innovative method seeks to cultivate greater technical fluency for humanities and social science researchers and to offer non-experts greater agency over the myriad ways in which datafication increasingly subsumes our everyday lives. We proceed by (i) a review of existing technical and social scientific literatures; (ii) introducing the platform and resources we created, which holds the permissions and SDKs of over 7000 applications; and (iii) presenting preliminary findings from workshops held at 2019 OrgCon Digital Rights conference with Berlin based non-profit organisation, Tactical Tech. We conclude with a call for a microscopic perspective on the technical objects that comprise application infrastructures. We contend that only a more grounded understanding of their generative capacities can improve our understanding how datafication is extended in platforms like Google and Facebook via the app services they provide and thus instantiating themselves across this ecosystem.

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