Digital rights activist Murray Hunter has taken the subjects of big data, surveillance, and online privacy and turned it into a silly and subversive look at the world of digital surveillance – for kids.
Through his recently released illustrated storybook titled Boris the BabyBot, children of all ages (beginning at age three) can learn about online surveillance by following the misadventures of a baby-tracking robot whose sole purpose is to collect data about babies for “The Factory.”
According to the author’s official website, the book was published through a global crowdfunding campaign which met its fundraising goal in less than a week.
Thanks to more than 200 people from across the world, Boris the BabyBot was able to be published.
As mentioned above, the book follows a baby-tracking robot whose sole purpose is to collect data about babies, but what happens when the BabyBot meets a baby that can’t be tracked?
“Boris the BabyBot invites kids (and grown-ups) into the secret world of Big Data in a way that’s playful and fun and opens up a conversation about privacy, resistance, and wiggly, squiggly robots,” reads part of a statement on the website.
“For years as a digital rights campaigner, I’ve been talking to grown-ups about data privacy. With each scandal about corporate surveillance and data collection, there’s a greater global awareness than ever before of the need for ordinary people to stand up to defend their digital privacy. But when do we bring children into that discussion? I wanted a playful, engaging way to start a discussion with the kids in my life about these issues,” explained Murray.
The author goes on to say that although data collection may seem like a scary topic for adults, kids are smart and curious enough to grasp the subject matter – especially when it comes to the frolics and follies of a beeping, booping, baby-tracking robot.
“This is not a book that teaches children ‘about’ surveillance. But my hope is that Boris the BabyBot will give children the narrative and visual building blocks they need to start building their own awareness and curiosity of the hidden world behind our technology.”
From now until Christmas, Murray will be donating half the takings from Amazon UK sales of Boris the BabyBot to a food bank in Boris Johnson’s constituency. And for those wondering if the book’s main character is named after the UK’s new prime minister, Murray states that the book has nothing to do with him.