How to Sell Your Data without Selling Your Soul

My RMIT colleague Chris Berg and I have a report published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The privacy dilemma is this: There is an enormous amount of economic value that can be unlocked with the use and analysis of personal data, but the use of that data can expose information about individuals without their consent. Privacy is key to individual liberty. Individuals require control over their own private information in order to live autonomous and flourishing lives. While free individuals expose information about themselves in the course of social and economic activity, public policy should strive to ensure they do so only with their own implied or explicit consent.

The ideal public policy setting is one in which consumers can control and monetize their own data. The ideal regime would be one in which individuals have property rights over personal information. Governments have begun to try to provide such rights. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation purports to give users control over their data held by firms and other organizations.

However, the “right” it offers is an extremely limited one and effectively prevents individuals from being able to monetize their own data. Consumers are unable to contractually “sell” their information to firms, as the GDPR establishes a permanent right to have their data erased (albeit under limited circumstances). The relationship between data markets and privacy ought to be governed by the common law. Regulatory approaches such as the GDPR are insufficiently adaptive to rapid changes in technology and demand, risk locking in outdated conceptions of privacy risks and opportunities, and are static rather than evolutionary— and thus unlikely to bring public policy closer to the ideal property rights regime. The common law, thanks to its case-by-case, evolutionary nature, is more likely to provide a sustainable and adaptive framework by which we can approach data privacy questions.

The data privacy dilemma is a reflection of the current state of technology. Until recently there has been no alternative to centralized data management, a status quo that carries significant risks regarding data access and control. New technologies, such as blockchain technology, potentially offer a mechanism to change the data ownership dynamic. Ensuring that we can benefit from these changes will require the flexibility and adaptability of the common law—rather than a regulatory—approach to public policy.

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6 Responses to How to Sell Your Data without Selling Your Soul

  1. RobK

    What mechanism would control the identifiers in the data?

  2. C.L.

    Without having some basic personal data (re your wealth, credit rating, purchasing decisions etc), why would a buyer want to pay you for it, though?

  3. No I’m selling you a BitConnect scam clone.

    https://brave.com/brave-rewards/

    When you join Brave Rewards, your browser will automatically start tallying (only on your device’s local storage) the attention you spend on sites you visit. Once a month, Brave Rewards will send the corresponding amount of BAT, divided up based on your attention, from your local browser-based wallet to the sites you’ve visited. You can remove sites you don’t want to support, and tip creators directly too.

    All of this is anonymous: nobody (not even us here at Brave) can see who supported which sites. We can only count up the total support for each site and send the BAT their way. Content creators can use our partner Uphold to convert the BAT they earn into a currency of their choosing.

  4. C.L.

    OK, so that kind of answers my question.
    Are there any reviews of the BAT market?

  5. Diogenes

    Your thoughts then on the government’s proposed new “no opt-out” data-sharing regime ?

    https://www.datacommissioner.gov.au/resources/discussion-paper

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