Andrew Yang, the Democrat running for president at next year's US elections, wants individuals to have property rights for their data. One of his goals, according to his policy proposal, is to 'enable individuals to share in the economic value generated as a result of their data.'
Sound familiar? The economic power of personal data as returned to individuals is the key to broader data ownership rights. Yang's tweet revives the privacy vs property rights debate, and while the crypto crowd is cheering about his proposals, others are less enthusiastic, with CNET's David Priest quoting privacy scholars on why treating data as property isn't feasible.
It's hard to move from privacy to rights. Even Yang's list—which includes the right to opt out and the right to be forgotten—sounds more like GDPR-type privacy rules than actual property rights. The reality is that data in itself is not “ownable”, as I wrote in MadHATTERs 100th issue. And the Royal Society has weighed in on it as well. Data rights take the property rights of where it sits, and centralised databases are not the best places for it to sit for such rights. Which is why economists and privacy scholars do not like the idea.
But calls like Yang's can only be good. We are all pushing to decentralise the Internet so that individuals can benefit from their own data.
Genuine data ownership rights can give us possession, control, exclusion, enjoyment and disposition (the HATLAB highlighted this in a recent response on children's rights in the digital environment). They rebalance economic power so that we can enforce privacy rules.
Yours in HAT,