Machín 2 machín: A critical feminist and psychosocial perspective on new digital networks (2)

This is the second part of a two-part article. See the first part here.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of these changes moving in the direction of cyber-physical systems is the growth of the “femtech” sector (technology allegedly created by and for women). Let's look at some examples. “Lioness” is a vibrator designed specifically to help you "learn about your body" by sending data about your sexual responses (mainly vaginal orgasms) to an app (that is, to a large number of third parties). Another example is MyFLO, a period tracking app that has the option of sending information to your sexual partner about what you would like, depending on the current stage of your menstrual cycle. Keep in mind, however, that it's not just your partner who receives this information, but also the company that sold you this little toy or the supplier of the app.1 It's not hard to imagine the problems that might arise with this kind of product. And these are just two examples of technologies made "by and for women", imagine! We could continue to list countless disturbing examples, but the reality is that these technologies already exist and will continue to proliferate and extend their reach over time.

Another example of the inherent sexism and danger posed by these new "smart" technologies is evident in a recent report published by UNESCO on digital voice assistants which, it says, reinforce the stereotype of women being “obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers."2 Another serious problem involving these virtual assistants is that you have a kind of corporate spy inside your home sending a flow of personal and intimate information to Amazon and Google servers, listening to everything around you, processing it according to these companies' market and monitoring algorithms, and making it possible to associate your comments with your location, your internet searches and a whole series of data relationships that can generate new vulnerabilities. Google has received several complaints about sexual harassment from female employees. Behind the soothing, docile voice of a virtual woman are (mainly white) men leading some of the world's most powerful online businesses, harvesting personal and private data from inside our homes.

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