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Privacy Plus+: Data Dignity and Inverse Privacy

Privacy Plus+

Privacy, Technology and Perspective

Data Dignity and Inverse Privacy. This week, we consider alternatives to a national privacy law. As the New York Times reported in the following article, “Congress and Trump agreed they want a national privacy law. It Is Nowhere in Sight”: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/01/technology/national-privacy-law.html.

However, new approaches are emerging to allow consumers to capture more of their data’s economic value, instead of it all going to tech companies. Up to now, use of the internet has, in large part, been “free.”  That is, consumers have largely not been required to pay for access to information on the internet or social media platforms.  There is a cost, however.  That cost is consumer privacy, and its financial value has created billionaires and made the power of Big Tech possible.

Because there is “no free lunch,” several thought leaders are reimagining what “data privacy” may look like in the future—Should consumers be paid for their data, and in exchange, pay for services?  Should personal data be stored in “pods” controlled by consumers?  Is “inverse privacy” the wave of the future?  All of these questions are on the table right now.  And Congress should take note:

1.    Jaron Lanier and Glen Weyl’s “Data Dignity” idea: “You should have the moral rights to every bit of data that exists because you exist,” say Lanier and Weyl, and businesses should pay you for your permission to use it.  They think this could amount to $20,000 a year for an average family. It would require substantial new legislation and a new intermediary to handle the transactions, called a “Mediator of Individual Data.”

Mr. Lanier’s three short videos can be found at the following link:

 -       https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/23/opinion/data-privacy-jaron-lanier.html?searchResultPosition=1

 2.    Inrupt/Solid:  Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose work underlay much of the creation of the internet, proposes a technical solution to allow users to control their own data.  Instead of consumers reaching out to apps and handing over their data, let consumers keep/store their data themselves in their own “PODs” – personal storage spaces, on their own servers or from providers. Your data would stay with you.  People and apps would come to you, and you would give them permission to read and write to parts of your POD. 

Interested?  For more information, see the following links:

-       https://solid.inrupt.com/

-       https://www.androidauthority.com/tim-berners-lee-solid-882107/

3.    Microsoft’s “Data Dignity” Initiative:  ZD Net and Pulse 2.0 have reported that Microsoft is putting together “a strong ‘Data Dignity’ team” in the Chief Technology Officer’s office to develop ways to give consumers more control over their data.  (Jaron Lanier is a chief scientist at Microsoft.)  Called “Project Bali,” Microsoft hopes to distinguish itself from Facebook and Google and avoid the searing public and legislative scrutiny they’re facing. How it would work is not yet clear, but the fact that Microsoft is now talking about it publicly suggests work is far advanced.  

For more information, see these links:

 -       https://pulse2.com/microsoft-data-dignity-team/

 -       https://www.pcmag.com/news/365732/microsofts-project-bali-seeks-to-give-you-control-of-your-d

 -       “Inverse Privacy”: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/inverse-privacy/

All of this leads to the overwhelming question: Do we need national privacy law, or do we need a new “inverse privacy” paradigm that empowers consumers, strengthens privacy protections, and potentially grows the economy at the same time?

Hosch & Morris, PLLC is a Dallas-based boutique law firm dedicated to data protection, privacy, the Internet and technology. Open the Future℠.


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