Automated Gender Attribution: It’s A Boy! It’s A Girl! Said the Algorithm


  • Gloria González Fuster


  • Os Keyes
  • Sonia Katyal
  • Daniel Leufer
  • Karen Melchior

Organisation: CPDP

Room: Grand Hall Online

Timing: 14:15 - 15:30 on 29 January 2021

Computer says ‘male’. Computer says ‘female’. Or computer says ‘unknown’, ‘unclear but 63% chances of (X)’, or maybe just ‘error’, or ‘no’. Machines are increasingly being asked to classify individuals on the basis of their presumed gender. Daily online activities are interpreted as signs of belonging to a gender category, often without data subjects knowing about this at all, and relying on opaque grounds that can hide extremely problematic gender stereotyping. Major big tech companies base on first names crucial decisions on supposed demographics, with a direct impact on who sees which online content exactly. Bodies are being read, compared and sorted out while people just walk around in public. Automated Gender Attribution –often called Automated Gender ‘Recognition’ – is increasingly ubiquitous. This panel will ask:

• How extensive and insidious is Automated Gender Attribution today?
• How does it affect individual rights and freedoms, including those of trans and gender non-confirming individuals?
• Can privacy and data protection laws offer meaningful protection, and how?
• What must the legislator do, notably in the context of AI regulation?


Gloria González Fuster

Law, Science, Technology and Society (LSTS)(BE)

Prof. Dr. Gloria González Fuster is a Research Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)’s Faculty of Law and Criminology. Co-Director of the Law, Science, Technology and Society (LSTS) Research Group, and member of the Brussels Privacy Hub (BPH), she investigates legal issues related to privacy, personal data protection and security. She teaches ‘Privacy and Data Protection Law‘ at VUB, and ‘Data Policies in the European Union’ at the Data Law option of the Master of Laws in International and European Law of VUB’s Institute for European Studies (IES).


Os Keyes

Washington University (US)

Os Keyes is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington, where they study gender, disability, race, technology, and (counter)power. An inaugural winner of the Ada Lovelace Fellowship, their academic work has appeared in Cultural Studies, Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, and many other venues, while their public scholarship has appeared in Slate, Vice, and Scientific American.

Sonia Katyal

University of California - Berkeley, School of Law, and Berkeley Center for Law and Technology (US)

Professor Sonia Katyal is the Distinguished Haas Chair and Co-Associate Dean for Faculty Research at University of California, Berkeley at the Law School. Her work focuses on the intersection of technology, intellectual property, and civil rights (including antidiscrimination, privacy, and freedom of speech). Professor Katyal’s current projects focus on artificial intelligence and intellectual property; the intersection between the right to information and human rights; trademark law and branding; and a variety of projects on the intersection between museums, cultural property and new media.

Daniel Leufer

Access Now (BE)

Daniel works as Europe Policy Analyst at Access Now's Brussels office. He works on issues around artificial intelligence and data protection, with a focus on facial recognition and other biometrics. Previously, he was hosted by Access Now as a Mozilla Fellow from October 2019 to July 2020. During his Mozilla Fellowship, he worked with Access Now to develop, a website that gathers resources to tackle 8 of the most common myths and misconceptions about AI. He has a PhD in Philosophy from KU Leuven in Belgium and has worked on political philosophy (especially political dissidence), philosophy of technology, and the philosophy and sociology of war. He is also a member of the Working Group on Philosophy of Technology at KU Leuven.

Karen Melchior


Karen Melchior is a member of the European Parliament since 2019, representing Radikale Venstre, the Danish Social Liberal Party. With a focus on digital rights, she is the Renew Europe coordinator for the Legal Affairs committee and is also a member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. Furthermore a substitute member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age.