Journal of Information & Privacy Law

The Data Revolution: Are You In The Know?

By Anisha Mehta, Symposium Editor on Monday, November 10th, 2014
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We are in the next phase of the Internet.  Big data is an all-encompassing term for the collection of large and complex data sets that requires in-depth analyses.  The data is found in modes of sharing, storing, transfer, visualization, capture, curation, and even privacy violations.  It is apparent that individuals’ expectations of privacy on the Internet are decreasing rapidly, and the collection and use of big data is growing exponentially.

This method of compiling and sharing data can provide efficiency and precision for businesses, organizations, and communities while simultaneously providing convenience to the consumers. Those consumers who want the convenience of a personalized customer experience enter into a trade-off that includes the diminishing of their privacy.  Unfortunately, consumers who do not want this trade-off, or better yet do not know it is happening, are not given the option.  In fact, merely posting anything on the Internet these days is up for grabs by a company, organization, or even data brokers who sell Internet users’ personal information.

Data compilation has been proven to be very valuable to companies and the data trends and future predictions can be even more so.  However, scholars have suggested that some processes of data compilation are in violation of due process – technology due process.[1]  This concept is based on the fact that when our life, liberty, or property is being affected, we are owed a form of due process, and a person’s online footprint is essentially their property.

Some companies provide opt out provisions to their users, which provides them with notice and the opportunity to object to the terms and service agreements by either opting out of such surveillance, or not using their service at all.  The latter of the two is usually the choice that is given to users of social networks, in which users feel they really don’t have a choice if they want to use the social networking platform whatsoever.  Some may argue that at least this low threshold is put in place by some companies, unlike that of data brokers who simply scrape data off of websites, compile it, and make a sizeable profit by selling people’s personal information.

The FTC has recently announced their efforts in tackling this very issue,[2] but it seems there are still problems with the lack of clarity given to consumers to adequately opt out.  Even if consumers do opt out, they most often still do not know the limitations on the use of data, do not have access to their data, and do not have the ability to correct inaccurate data.



[1] Danielle Keats Citron, Big Data Should Be Regulated by ‘Technological Due Process,” The New York Times (Aug. 6, 2014), available at http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/06/is-big-data-spreading-inequality/big-data-should-be-regulated-by-technological-due-process.

[2] Federal Trade Commission, Data Brokers A Call for Transparency and Accountability (May 2014), http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/data-brokers-call-transparency-accountability-report-federal-trade-commission-may-2014/140527databrokerreport.pdf.

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