DATA AS AN ECONOMIC ASSET : CAUTION AGAINST DESTRUCTIVE USES

Processing of personal data occurs within and is often structured by social, economic and institutional settings. The interactive technologies enable that personalized data can enter into the commercial calculus of the marketing machine, thereby transferring it, selling it, and even conducting marketing experiments with it. In ‘giving’ his or her personal data to a certain organization, the individual does not provide these data for use in an ‘objective’ context.[1]

  • Mandatory Volunteerism

Volunteering one’s data and being digitally recorded and tracked is coming to be taken for granted as a means of asserting selfhood.[2] Sometimes individuals by compulsion are forced to share information for accessing the online services.  Consumers often have no choice but to consent or they consent automatically, ignoring privacy policies and consent requests clicking through or signing them without reading them if necessary to proceed.[3] From the individual’s perspective, one’s ability to exercise control over one’s information in this situation is significantly limited due to, as economists would say, ‘asymmetrical information and bargaining power.’[4] In the context of the public sector, an individual’s ability to negotiate the boundaries of informational privacy and exercise some choice is circumscribed by the state’s coercive power, which can compel individuals to act as prescribed by law.

The use and sale of personally identifiable information along with the extensive secondary use of such data facilitate error. [5] The accuracy and completeness of the information are undercut by continuous collection and processing of data.

  • Information Balance Approach

The concept of data protection may be considered against the need of free flow of information in a vibrant economy. Information balance mandates trade-offs between trust and flexible information use.[6] Personal information flows are necessary for the functioning of modern economies and are often beneficial to consumers (data subjects), first parties (data holders), and third-party companies (data brokers). Consumers benefit from transactions involving their personal data due to easier access to credit and insurance, customization, and personalization. Trust must be built by the organizations involved in the collection, processing etc. of personal data, in order to ensure that consumers /data subjects feel free to share information without fear of its misuse. Self-governance, industry codes of conduct and self-restraint by organizations are some of the factors which may help to establish trust. Rather than an unrestricted broad use of data concerning individuals, respect must be given to individuals’ choices in regard to data involving them.

Table 1- Main Categories of Destructive Use of Information[7]

Information User Destructive Uses
Criminals Identity theft, phishing, malware and other forms of fraud
Commercial

enterprises

Surreptitious collection of consumer information for sale or use in marketing, often without adequate compensation or revenue sharing with the consumer
Other consumers,

friends, family

Stalking, bullying, the accidental or intentional disclosure of embarrassing or secret information
Government and

other state actors

Unlawful search and seizure, accidental disclosure
News media Publication of defamatory or erroneous information that damages the reputation
Employers and

business associates

Eavesdropping and other monitoring to identify poor performance, violation of employer rules, or business secrets
Insurers and health

care professionals

Collection and use of known and potential risks to determine coverage or the danger of accidental disclosure

An analysis of the above Table reveals that the destructive use of information depends upon who the information user is and what are his goals in using the information. It shows that destructive use of information is not restricted to either a particular class of destruction or to a particular class of users. The government, commercial enterprises, friends, family etc are also involved in destructive use in addition to the usually pinpointed category of criminals, news media, employers etc.

Sum-Up

There is need of the legal provisions to enhance the visibility of and knowledge of how personal data are used and combined, on the basis of what data individuals are typified, by whom and for what purposes.

[1] Corien Prins, “Selling my Soul to the digital world”, Amsterdam Law Forum, Vol 1:4 at 9.

[2]              Gary T. Marx, “Soft Surveillance: The Growth of Mandatory Volunteerism in Collecting Personal Information-“Hey Buddy Can You Spare a DNA?” Dissent, Winter 2005.

[3]          Fred H Cate, “The Privacy Problem: A broader view of information privacy and the costs and consequences of protecting it” 18  (First Amendment Centre, Washington,2003).

[4]          Ann Cavoukian, “Privacy as a Fundamental Human Right vs. an Economic Right: An Attempt at Conciliation”, Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario, September 1999.

[5]              Suzanne M. Thompson, “The Digital Explosion Comes With a Cost: The Loss of Privacy” 4(1) Journal of Technology Law and Policy, 24 (1999).

[6]              Marty Abrams, “The Economic Benefits of Balanced Information Use”, CEI Staff (ed.) The Future of Financial Privacy: Private choices versus political rules (Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, 2000).

[7]              Larry Downes, “A Market Approach to Privacy Policy” 514, Berin Szoka & Adam Marcus (eds.) The Next Digital Decade – Essays on the Future of the Internet, (Tech Freedom, Washington, 2010).

Image from here

Bhumika Sharma

She is currently a Research Scholar, (PhD) at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. She finds peace in writing and researching on a variety of social issues. She believes in the power of education and awareness to deal with various problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.