Law in the Internet Society
-- MathewKenneally - 16 Sep 2014

The articles in “On the Radar” give examples of the growing industry in collecting and selling personal data. Colloquially this is referred to as “Big Data”. Negative consequences we have explored in the reading include: predatory lending; higher insurance premiums, and increasingly insidious advertising. However, others point to the numerous benefits we can gain from collecting information on the entire population including: an increased ability to predict when people will get sick; improvements in medical research; and more information from which to design social policy. Can these social benefits from information collection be acquired without eroding privacy and concentrating power in a few companies? Or is it necessary for society to exchange (consciously, or unconsciously) these freedoms for the economic and social benefits?

Another negative is the lack of consent and control over the use of data most personal. If one believes this has an inherent value. The collection of data could be restructured to be opt-in, and anonymized to whatever extent the user prefers. Not all data would then be collected, which may skew the 'results,' but all participants in experiments should give consent to participate. See, e.g. Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Yes, there is a trade off, but a huge weight on the other side of the scale is missing in the negatives you have listed above: democratic participation.

-- KaitlinMorrison - 16 Sep 2014

On the other hand, privacy isn't a tangible phenomenon; it's a normative judgment about what should and shouldn't be shared. As big data grows increasingly common, our sense of what is and isn't private will surely change. For instance, I'd be outraged if someone posted my phone number on the Internet without my consent, but to this day, we publish phone books with the name, phone number, and address of everyone in each community.

For better or worse, we'll probably grow less and less distressed at the prospect of our tastes and preferences being used to drive advertising and other decisions. So long as those decisions are fundamentally benign, anyway: we can probably agree that American Express lowering someone's credit limit on the basis of big data harms them unfairly, whether it's a breach of privacy or not.

-- SamuelRoth - 17 Sep 2014

Thanks Kaitlin, Samuel

I am curious about the notion of consent in a digital ecosystem. I understand there as being two types of a consent: an individuals consent to lose privacy; and the wider consent of a society to certain intrusions.

How do we obtain societal consent to sacrifice privacy in circumstances where surveillance technology and hardware is advancing at an exponential rate? For example in the US a distinction was drawn in 1979 by the Supreme Court between meta-data and content of calls. The former not being caught by the 4th Amendment. Further, legislation permitted spying on foreign nationals, not Americans. The technology in the early 20th Century increased the volume, availability of metadata. Further the nature of the internet meant spying on foreigners would invariably lead to incidental spying on Americans.

How can we establish norms and legal rules today that won't be swept aside quickly by advances in technology?

-- MathewKenneally - 29 Sep 2014



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r4 - 29 Sep 2014 - 19:59:28 - MathewKenneally
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