Modernizing Data Control: Making Personal Digital Data Mutually Beneficial for Citizens and Industry

12/15/2020
by   Sujata Banerjee, et al.
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We are entering a new "data everywhere-anytime" era that pivots us from being tracked online to continuous tracking as we move through our everyday lives. We have smart devices in our homes, on our bodies, and around our communities that collect data that is used to guide decisions that have a major impact on our lives - from loans to job interviews and judicial rulings to health care interventions. We create a lot of data, but who owns that data? How is it shared? How will it be used? While the average person does not have a good understanding of how the data is being used, they know that it carries risks for them and society. Although some people may believe they own their data, in reality, the problem of understanding the myriad ways in which data is collected, shared, and used, and the consequences of these uses is so complex that only a few people want to manage their data themselves. Furthermore, much of the value in the data cannot be extracted by individuals alone, as it lies in the connections and insights garnered from (1) one's own personal data (is your fitness improving? Is your home more energy efficient than the average home of this size?) and (2) one's relationship with larger groups (demographic group voting blocks; friend network influence on purchasing). But sometimes these insights have unintended consequences for the person generating the data, especially in terms of loss of privacy, unfairness, inappropriate inferences, information bias, manipulation, and discrimination. There are also societal impacts, such as effects on speech freedoms, political manipulation, and amplified harms to weakened and underrepresented communities. To this end, we look at major questions that policymakers should ask and things to consider when addressing these data ownership concerns.

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