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Three Short Films: Privacy in the Age of Big Data


Surveillance Studies Centre, Queens University



Project Leader(s)

David Lyon & David Murakami Wood


In this project, three short films were created to raise awareness about how large organizations use data and how these practices affect life chances and choices. The films consider these implications and examine the practices within big data systems that underpin, enable, and accelerate surveillance:

  • Blaxites follows the story of a young woman whose celebratory social media post affects her access to vital medication. Her attempts to circumvent the system leads to dire consequences.
  • In A Model Employee, to keep her day job at a local restaurant, an aspiring DJ wears a tracking wristband. As it tracks her life outside of work, she tries to “out-smart” the system, but a new device upgrade means trouble.
  • Frames, tracks and analyzes a woman walking through a “smart” city. Things she does are interpreted and logged by the city system, but is “the system” drawing an accurate picture of the woman?

Intended as public education tools to spark discussion and extend understandings of surveillance, trust, and privacy in the digital age, each film focuses on a different aspect of big data surveillance and the tensions that manifest when the human is interpreted by the machine.

Project deliverables are available in the following language(s):


OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact Information

Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC)
c/o Dept. of Sociology
Queen’s University
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6
Joan Sharpe, Project Administrator
(613) 533-6000, ext. 78867

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