Thanks @borja, you have a very interesting manifesto. It’s without a doubt true that “public interest prevails over private profits”!!
To get the discussion going, what do people think about the idea that data about somebody is their own personal property?
I think this is an interesting idea, but it’s very abstract and different. Since we’re talking about ownership of information, that might be the realm of things like copyrights and database rights which I think form the basis for current legal information ownership.
Under present law, facts are not copyrightable. For example, our names, addresses, phone numbers, and our histories (including what we do online) are not copyrightable. That is for good reason, otherwise we couldn’t even write about things and people without breaking the law! On the other hand things we publish and photos like comments are copyrightable.
There is another form of protection, database rights, where somebody’s spent a little creative effort to create an ordered database of what could otherwise be non-copyrightable facts. For example according to US case law a database of restaurants names and addresses would not qualify for this kind of protection, unless somebody has taken the effort to say figure out what type of food each place serves. So even if we created a database of our own activities (excluding creative works), I’m not sure it would even be protected by database law unless we somehow creatively organised it. And therefore we might not be able to say we “own” it unless the law changes.
Given this, I would say that the common use of phrases like “our information” and “your data” which we see all over the press and even academia seem to be inaccurate. “Our”, “my” and “your” are possessives that imply ownership.
What is the copyright policy of this forum? I remember a time here when users couldn’t even delete past posts they wrote themselves. As posts are copyrighted, that means that somewhere here people must have been agreeing to have their automatic copyrights transferred to the Humane Tech forums? Or does that happen automatically since we are writing here?
Maybe none of this matters. We don’t need to own data about ourselves to protect it. There are many laws already in place regarding privacy policies, including the EU Data Protection Directive. These give people privacy rights but not ownership.
There are guidelines such as the UN Human Rights Council’s resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age and the OECD’s Recommendations of the Council Concerning Guidelines Governing the Protection of Privacy and Trans-Border Flows of Personal Data. If these were strongly actually enacted upon and put into country laws, would that be enough?
There is also a movement to create new kinds of ownership rights for data we create about ourselves. Here is a recent book-sized paper on the topic:
REGULATING DATA AS PROPERTY: A NEW CONSTRUCT FOR MOVING FORWARD
“We propose a property rules construct that clearly defines a right to own digital information arises upon creation (whether by keystroke or machine), and suggest when and how that right attaches to specific data though the exercise of technological controls.”
I’m not an expert on this topic and could be wrong. The above is just what I always assumed to be true based on what I know about the world. That’s why I’m asking, what do you think?