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From “Data Protection” to “Data Donation”: Conceptualizing the Reuse of Personal Data in Policy Responses to Big Data

Authors: Anna Artyushina*, York University
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography, Europe
Keywords: Personal Data, Data Governance, GDPR, policy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Before the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in 2018, a range of academic, civic, and industry actors had thrown their weight behind the campaigns aimed to redefine the legal definition of user consent. The shift from “traditional” to “dynamic” consent, which has resulted from these activities means an easier way for third-party companies to get access to, reuse, and share personal information collected by state agencies and private entities. Similarly, the lobbying activities pushing for legal derogations for data reuse accompanied all the stages of negotiations over The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the bill modelled after the GDPR that passed into law in 2019. Both the GDPR and the CCPA have been envisioned as the most comprehensive privacy laws in history. However, a closer look at these legal frameworks shows that they are premised on two conflicting assumptions: the need to protect personal data and the fear to be left behind in the data-driven innovation race. The arduous efforts to make the new legislation effective mark a paradigmatic shift of the policy discourses around personal data away from “protecting data” as key concern to “donating data for a legitimate purpose”. Drawing on STS scholarship and critical data studies, I explore the social and economic assumptions underpinning the existing data governance approaches. The core of my argument is that these approaches define digital information as a (private/public) asset and seek to establish a government monopoly over personal data.

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