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Essay – It’s Time for a Bill of Data Rights

This essay argues that “data ownership” is a flawed, counterproductive way of thinking about data. It not only does not fix existing problems; it creates new ones. Instead, we need a framework that gives people rights to stipulate how their data is used without requiring them to take ownership of it themselves. The Data Care Act, a bill introduced on December 12 by US senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, is a good initial step in this direction (depending on how the fine print evolves). As Doug Jones, a Democratic senator from Alabama who is one of the bills cosponsors, said, “The right to online privacy and security should be a fundamental one.” The notion of “ownership” is appealing because it suggests giving you power and control over your data. But owning and “renting” out data is a bad analogy. Control over how particular bits of data are used is only one problem among many. The real questions are questions about how data shapes society and individuals. Rachel’s story will show us why data rights are important and how they might work to protect not just Rachel as an individual, but society as a whole…” [h/t Alan Rothman]

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