Big Data Is an Economic Justice Issue, Not Just a Privacy Problem

in the Huffington Post: “The control of personal data by “big data” companies is not just an issue of privacy but is becoming a critical issue of economic justice, argues a new report issued by the organization Data Justice>, which itself is being publicly launched in conjunction with the report. ..

At the same time, big data is fueling economic concentration across our economy. As a handful of data platforms generate massive amounts of user data, the barriers to entry rise, since potential competitors have little data themselves to entice advertisers compared with the incumbents, who have both the concentrated processing power and the supply of user data to dominate particular sectors. With little competition, companies end up with little incentive to either protect user privacy or share the economic value of that user data with the consumers generating those profits.

The report argues for a threefold approach to making big data work for everyone in the economy, not just for the big data platforms’ shareholders:

  • First, regulators need to strengthen user control of their own data by both requiring explicit consent for all uses of the data and better informing users of how it’s being used and how companies profit from that data.
  • Second, regulators need to factor control of data into merger review, and to initiate antitrust actions against companies like Google where monopoly control of a sector like search advertising has been established.
  • Third, policymakers should restrict practices that harm consumers, including banning price discrimination where consumers are not informed of all discount options available and bringing the participation of big data platforms in marketing financial services under the regulation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Data Justice itself has been founded as an organization “to promote public education and new alliances to challenge the danger of big data to workers, consumers and the public.” It will work to educate the public, policymakers and organizational allies on how big data is contributing to economic inequality in the economy. Its new website at is intended to bring together a wide range of resources highlighting the economic justice aspects of big data.”