Human Geography PhD Studentship

Where are you now? Precision, Privacy, Consent and the Rapid Proliferation of Geolocation Data

Smartphones have become a crucial, everyday means by which people are brought together, and provide access to information of all kinds that would be impossible off the network and offline. But the platforms and apps that enable this also allow for the collection and commercialisation of vast amounts of often very personal data, held and exchanged without our knowledge. Geolocation, wherein people and things are ‘placed’, underpins all of these practices, from the ‘geotagging’ of Instagram photos, to the ‘deep mining’ of data that produces sale-able aggregations and personalised data sets.

This project takes forward research from political geography, urban studies and geomatics on the rippling impacts of new technologies on social relations, everyday practices, and the governance of people and things, as a means of investigating this ‘smart’ turn, while acknowledging and responding to the recent uptick in policy and media debates on the reshaping of privacy, anonymity and consent in a society that has become subtended by social media. The project hinges on an analysis of the integrated Multimedia City Data (iMCD), produced by the Urban Big Data Centre, which allows questions around smartphone usage, mobility, perceptions of ICT competencies, and apprehensions around privacy, consent and anonymity to be explored via a rich tranche of survey responses, travel diaries and geolocation tracks from respondents across Glasgow. The iMCD data can animate interview questions with state and industry key informants on the anticipated scope and impacts of increasingly precise geolocation technologies. And, can be augmented by the carrying out of a citizen science element, wherein data privacy issues are foregrounded as tangible practices/events (such as smart advertising points, ‘free’ wi-fi network offers, Google map recommendations, piggy-backing hot spots, and smart payments).

Application deadline: 12 noon, Thursday 30 April 2020.

Find out more, including full details on how to apply, on the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science website.

This studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.