The data economy is still very young, but it’s already transforming our economy and society. It’s evolving extremely quickly, driven by the increasing technical capabilities of hardware and software. This proliferates its economic and social impact, both positive and negative. There’s a real urgency that this is taken seriously by regulators now, if we’re to ensure a net positive impact as we integrate this new technology and resource into our economy. To do this we must spread the power that data creates more widely, and create new accountability mechanisms to hold data economy actors, both public and private, to account. This paper provides six principles that may help ensure that the future data economy puts the protection of people above the interests of private companies’ quest for profit, or the government’s desire to monitor.
1. Protect by default - hardware, software, and platforms should protect users by default and ensure people have automatically enabled new features and protections.
2. Building on decentralised architecture - digital infrastructures should be based as far as possible on decentralised architecture to disperse power, while creating a more secure and less vulnerable network.
3. Enable the collective - the narrative around individual rights and actions needs to be supplemented by a narrative around collective rights and actions. The individualised narrative is hugely disempowering because it excludes those people who do not have the time, ability, knowledge, or interest to take action to protect themselves from potential harm.
4. Realise that data is a public good - the data economy is too focussed on the monetary value of data. This is favoured at the expense of it being put towards the public and social good. Because of its ability to help us transform the economy for the common good, we must realise that the real value of data is not monetary, but social. If we fail to realise this, our data economy will always be susceptible to the whims of the private sector.
5. Ensure clear accountability - as the data economy enters more areas of our life, we need to ensure there is clear accountability for those collecting and processing our data.
6. Increase transparency - we need to ensure that there is transparency within the system. This will help rekindle trust in the data economy, so damaged by recent scandals and leaks, and hamper big tech’s love of opaque business practices that characterise the digital world today, such as blanket data collection