From Alexa to Siri and the GDPR: the gendering of virtual personal assistants and the role of data protection impact assessments

SOURCE: Computer Law and Security Review
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2019
TITLE AUTHOR(S): N.N.Loideain, R.Adams
KEYWORDS: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI), DATA PROTECTION IMPACT ASSESSMENTS, GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION (GDPR)
DEPARTMENT: Impact Centre (IC), Impact Centre (PRESS), Impact Centre (CC)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11209
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/15150

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Abstract

With female names, voices and characters, artificially intelligent Virtual Personal Assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, and Siri appear to be decisively gendered female. Through an exploration of the various facets of gendering at play in the design of Siri, Alexa and Cortana, we argue that this gendering of VPAs as female may pose a societal harm, insofar as they reproduce normative assumptions about the role of women as submissive and secondary to men. In response, this article turns to examine the potential role and scope of data protection law as one possible solution to this problem. In particular, we examine the role of data privacy impact assessments that highlight the need to go beyond the data privacy paradigm, and require data controllers to consider and address the social impact of their products.