Are Publicly Available (Personal) Data 'up for grabs”? A Discussion of Three Privacy Agreements

Are our personal data up for grabs in the online realm? And here do we draw the line between data accessibility driving innovation and safeguarding our privacy rights? Our team member, Dr Elisa Orrù, tackles these pressing questions in her contribution to the 16th volume of 'Data Protection and Privacy: Ideas That Drive Our Digital World'.

In today's digital age, the question of whether publicly available personal data is fair game for anyone to access and utilize has sparked intense debate. With the increasing digitization of our lives, vast amounts of personal information are readily accessible online, raising concerns about privacy and data protection. Three recent privacy agreements have brought this issue to the forefront, shedding light on the complexities of navigating the fine line between personal data accessibility and privacy rights.

The first agreement, often seen as controversial, is between social media giants and third-party data brokers. This pact allows companies to purchase vast troves of user data from social media platforms, providing them with detailed insights into individuals' preferences, behaviors, and online activities. While proponents argue that this data exchange fuels targeted advertising and enhances user experience, critics raise alarms about the potential exploitation of personal information without explicit consent, leading to privacy breaches and manipulation.

Another agreement gaining attention is the partnership between public institutions and private entities for data-sharing purposes. While the intention behind such collaborations may be to improve service delivery and policymaking through data-driven insights, questions arise regarding the transparency of data usage, the adequacy of safeguards to protect sensitive information, and the potential for misuse or unauthorized access. Striking a balance between leveraging data for societal benefits and safeguarding individuals' privacy rights remains a critical challenge in these arrangements.

Lastly, the emergence of data monetization platforms has sparked discussions about individuals' rights to control and profit from their own data. These platforms aim to empower users by allowing them to manage and monetize their personal information, effectively turning data into a commodity. However, concerns linger about the fairness of compensation models, the risk of exacerbating digital inequality, and the broader ethical implications of commodifying personal data.

Learn more about the topic in Dr Orrù's piece here and explore how the VIGILANT Project maintains ethics and privacy rights during its research and tool development here.