Why We Should End the Data Economy

Essay by Carissa Véliz: “…The data economy undermines equality and fairness. You and your neighbor are no longer treated as equal citizens. You aren’t given an equal opportunity because you are treated differently on the basis of your data. The ads and content you have access to, the prices you pay for the same services, and even how long you wait when you call customer service depend on your data.

We are much better at collecting personal data than we are at keeping it safe. But personal data is a serious threat, and we shouldn’t be collecting it in the first place if we are incapable of keeping it safe. Using smartphone location data acquired from a data broker, reporters from The New York Times were able to track military officials with security clearances, powerful lawyers and their guests, and even the president of the United States (through the phone of someone believed to be a Secret Service agent).

Our current data economy is based on collecting as much personal data as possible, storing it indefinitely, and selling it to the highest bidder. Having so much sensitive data circulating freely is reckless. By designing our economy around surveillance, we are building a dangerous structure for social control that is at odds with freedom. In the surveillance society we are constructing, there is no such thing as under the radar. It shouldn’t be up to us to constantly opt out of data collection. The default matters, and the default should be no data collection…(More)”.