at the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society
The eQuality Project is a seven-year SSHRC-funded partnership co-led by Valerie Steeves and Jane Bailey, that brings together academic researchers, community organizations, educators, policy-makers, civil society groups working with young people, and young people themselves to identify evidence-based practices and policies that promote healthy relationships and respect for privacy and equality in the networked environment.
The eQuality partnership seeks to inform policy and engage in community outreach, especially with respect to privacy, algorithmic discrimination, and technology-facilitated violence, by drawing on the firsthand perspectives, experiences and expertise of young people on these issues.
The current economic model behind e-commerce (i.e. disclosure of information in exchange for service) has created a bias in favour of disclosure. Young people are the key to understanding the privacy implications of this bias, because, as early adopters of online media, they drop terabytes of data (often unknowingly) as they go about their daily lives. They are subsequently targeted by behavioural marketing to shape their attitudes and behaviours, often outside the reach of existing regulations, as privacy policies do not provide full disclosure of the analytics used, and profiling draws in non-personal data.
Algorithmic software such as marketing analytics sort young people into categories that often reproduce real-world patterns of discrimination. Marketers use the resulting profiles to integrate messages into youth’s social environment, encouraging them to internalize the identity created for them by the algorithmic sort itself, creating a feedback loop that reinforces mainstream stereotypes: online architectures encourage certain kinds of identity performances (e.g. highly sexualized performances of girls), and combine with social norms to open youth up to discrimination (e.g. shaming, homophobia).
To respond to these key areas, our partnership has four interrelated objectives:
To create new knowledge about commercial data practices and their impact on youth, by mapping out how online and mobile information infrastructures combine with social norms to expose young Canadians to discrimination and cyberbullying;
To create new knowledge about the ways in which diverse groups of young people conceptualize privacy and the potential for equality in networked spaces;
To contribute to digital media policy making by disseminating this new knowledge to policy makers and members of the public; and,
To create educational outreach materials that will: help young Canadians make the most of their digital media experiences; that are grounded in needs and desires identified by youth themselves; and that are responsive to programming; and, educational gaps identified by our partners based on their on-the-ground experience with serving young people and their families in their communities.
- Valerie Steeves, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Criminology
- Jane Bailey, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section
- Jacquelyn Burkell, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario
- Priscilla Regan, School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, George Mason University
- Leslie Regan Shade, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
The Partnership involves:
- The Alberta Teachers’ Association
- The Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity
- Canadian Race Relations Foundation
- Canadian Teachers’ Federation
- Canadian Women’s Foundation
- Egale Canada Human Rights Trust
- George Mason University
- Government of Alberta
- Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women
- Outside of the Shadows
- UNICEF Canada
- University of Ottawa
- University of Toronto
- University of Western Ontario
- The Vanier Institute of the Family
- Women and Gender Equality Canada