How to Sell Your Data without Selling Your Soul


In the Internet Age, the use and analysis of personal data holds an enormous amount of economic value, but use of that data can expose information about people without their consent. A new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), “Selling Your Data without Selling Your Soul: Privacy, Property, and the Platform Economy,” argues the common law is a better way to resolve this dilemma than a regulatory approach, like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Regulations are insufficiently adaptive to rapid changes in technology and demand, static rather than evolutionary, and risk locking in outdated conceptions of privacy threats. 

Co-authors Sinclair Davidson and Chris Berg argue under a common law approach, privacy questions would be solved on a case-by-case basis, drawing on and building up a stock of precedent that has more fidelity to real-world privacy issues than do planned regulatory frameworks.

“The economic value of personal information is rapidly growing as data becomes a key input to economic activity in the Internet Age,” said co-author Chris Berg. “Platforms that can accumulate and store data are a major driver of this change because they are likely to make that data and information more valuable. The ideal public policy setting is one in which individuals have property rights over personal information and can control and monetize their own data.”

“Humans have always sought to defend a zone of privacy around themselves in order to protect their personal information, their intimate actions and relationships, and their thoughts and ideas from outside scrutiny. However, thanks to the rapid advance of digital technology, we now have little expectation of privacy,” said co-author Sinclair Davidson. “Policymakers should rely on the common law to govern questions of data privacy because its case-by-case, evolutionary nature is more likely to provide a sustainable and adaptive framework to approach these difficult questions.”

>> Read the report: “Selling Your Data without Selling Your Soul: Privacy, Property, and the Platform Economy”