Could Data Copyright Laws Protect Our Freedom?
We’re not only being swindled out of the value of our data, we’re also quite possibly being surreptitiously swindled out of our freedom.
~ 6 min. read
We’re at a critical juncture in human history right now.
Each month we accelerate faster and deeper into the age of technology. And, at the same time, we experience ever more of its inherent creepiness and surveillance-ability.
With that in mind, how we answer this next question will have a profound impact on our future and will make this year an inflection point in human history.
That question is:
Why is the data we create on a daily basis not protected by copyright or some other form of property law?
This might seem like a silly question to some given the weight I’ve put on it, but let’s investigate…
The Story of Your Life.
The plethora of data created from every aspect of your daily digital existence is the story of your life. It is literally the collection of digital minutia that writes the pages in the story that is your digital autobiography.
Your daily browsing and location histories provide the setting for each scene. Your daily habits, routines, interests and tastes create your character profile which allows the reader to reasonably predict your actions and behaviours. Your relationships, work and purchasing histories are the drama and action. And the metadata from your daily conversations, uploads and activities are the footnotes of your life.
A new page is written to this story every day.
Each Day Is A Song. A Copyrightable Song.
Looking at another analogy – the actions you take each day could even be considered as the notes in a daily song you write in the anthology of your life.
“Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take…” These are the lyrics, notes and bars in the song and dance that is your daily life – and someone’s watching you.
Consider this: If a company recorded and profited from a new song you performed or did the same with a page in your autobiography you wrote each day, they’d be breaking copyright law, right? Especially so if it was done without your explicit and negotiated permission, or if they got your permission by tricking you into it.
So why are companies allowed to do this with the notes, bars, riffs and melodies of the digital songs and pages in the autobiography of our daily life?
Consent Is a Joke and You Fell For It – LOL.
When companies record the data-notes of your daily life-song and then sell or use it to make insane profits, why are they able to do so without your explicit, fully-informed and negotiated consent – like they’d need with your music or your autobiography?
They do it because online “consent” today is a joke. It’s a joke that’s been played on us and we’ve been the perfect suckers that fell for it.
Did you click “I Agree” so that some big-tech company could watch and record your every move in order to make an insane fortune with your data by constantly ramming advertising down your throat? Or did you click “I Agree” for convenience sake?
Because by clicking the “I Agree” button out of convenience, you’re not saying “I Agree”, you’re just saying “get this thing out of my way” – and that’s the punchline.
If you were told that they’d be recording your song in order to make big, big money with it – or that your data was going to be used to manipulate you into voting a certain way – you might not be so willing to click I Agree.
You Have No Choice.
Here’s the problem…
You have no choice. If you want to use their “free service”, they force you to agree to an all-or-nothing “contract of adhesion” that lets them record your daily-data-song so they can sell it or use it however they so please. There’s no other option.
Even if they say they won’t do anything with it, there are usually tricky legalese clauses that give them loopholes to do whatever they want with it. Privacy Policies and T&C Agreements easily hide what’s happening using vagueness and obfuscations that they’ll throw in your face if you doth protest.
“You agree/consent to us sharing your data with our partners or 3rd parties in order to improve our products and services, customer service and/or marketing.”
And with that, they share (or sell) your data to data brokers, advertising agencies, lobbyists, “political consultants”, behavioural specialists, ad networks, or maybe even alien overlords. That’s the problem – you’ll never know where your data is going or what it’s being used for.
It’s a F*cked System.
Please excuse my language, but it’s a f*cked system. I use that word intentionally because what’s happening is truly obscene, and in Shoshana Zuboff’s words, writer of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”, we “should be outraged”.
That’s why we need to take this idea of “Personal Data Ownership” – with property rights and all – very seriously. At least, as seriously as the is attention being paid to the digital copyright industry right now. Actually, more so, because if we don’t we’re only a few dozen months away from a total privacy and freedom dystopia.
Don’t think so? Ask around. I don’t think you’ll get many people arguing that we’re already 2/3 in the door to a surveillance state right now. People see it being facilitated by the state of surveillance capitalism we’re in and awareness is growing.
There’s a New Joke For You To Fall For.
No doubt, those with a vested interest will fight to keep things as-is. Politicians and technocrats are already talking about offering some sort of financial restitution to try to quell the unrest. The government and technocratic (very rich) lobby have to in order to justify the insane profits and manipulation made possible by our data.
But this offering of paltry sums has another, darker purpose.
All this talk about a regulated “data dividend” or “digital dividend” is just meant to keep things status quo. They don’t want to have to provide transparency or give you rights to fully informed consent. That would crush their business model and their deeper agendas. If you knew what was actually happening with your data you’d never agree to it. You’d be outraged.
With consent and ownership, you not only have control and knowledge of what’s happening with your data, but you can earn way more than what they’re offering as a hideously poisoned olive branch.
If “Data Is The New Oil”, Then…
Would you let Facebook come into your backyard and mine for oil so you could use FB for free?
Of course not – primarily because you don’t want strangers in your yard, but also because you know the value of that oil.
Yet we let them come into our living rooms and do it with our data precisely because we don’t know the value of our data because it’s been hidden from us.
Yet here’s a sobering fact: Facebook and Google alone, are worth more than the top 6 oil companies combined. (Not including Chinese oil companies where FB & G don’t really operate.)
$1.25 TRILLION in collective value has been amassed by FB & G, primarily in the last 10 years, almost ALL based on the value of our data for advertising.
So yeah, where’s our cut?
Get Off My Lawn!
If our data were our property, we’d be more likely to pay closer attention to how it’s being used and be less likely to let others tread all over us.
Property ownership has two key inherent aspects that it provides to us: privacy and value.
Our homes provide us with privacy and value.
Our cars provide us with privacy and value.
Copyrights provide us with privacy and value.
So what’s providing us with the privacy and value of our data?
Consent is the key to privacy. Privacy is not about locking everything down and living like a hermit. Privacy is about the comfort of knowing you have the ability to control and consent to who can see and/or use your data.
Consent is the key to value. By consenting how it is used and/or who can benefit from its use allows you to capitalize on and negotiate its value.
What’s Theirs is Theirs. What’s Mine is Mine.
Yes, the data created at the cash register is also the property of the store you just bought something from. But if you track that same transaction yourself, that data is YOURS.
The data that a Smart City collects about you? Yes – that’s the Smart City’s data, but if you have a device that also tracks your Smart City activity for yourself, that data is YOURS.
Why should the ability to track you and collect your data for profit be exclusive to tech companies? You should have the tools and devices to track yourself and capitalize on that data’s value yourself.
If you track yourself, using whatever devices or apps are at your disposal to do so, then you will have the best position (and choice) to capitalize on its value. You’ll also have better control of your privacy by being able to provide explicit and informed consent to its uses.
Don’t Sell Your Data. Sell Your Data’s Insights.
I’m not suggesting that people literally sell packages of (or direct access to) their data. To me, that’s antithetical to privacy. Not only that, the more you spread your data around the more it dilutes its value.
What I am suggesting, is that we should have basic rights of ownership for our data in order to make our own choices about its privacy and value.
You should have the right to give consent for access to your data. You should also have the right to offer valuable services or insights to others using your data as a resource without revealing any sensitive information about yourself.
The key is to protect your privacy while maximizing the earning potential of your data. That can only be achieved if you have the ability to control and provide consent to the various uses of your data. At MiDATA.io, our solution to this problem and our philosophy is “don’t sell your data, sell your data’s insights.”
Advertisers and Marketers Don’t Want Your Data.
Let’s face it… advertisers don’t actually want your data – they want the insights that your data produces.
Why should they pay data brokers for fragmented, inaccurate, inferred data about you? Why not pay YOU through your “data agent” for the highest-quality insights that your self-curated data can produce? That’s much more valuable to them and safer for you.
Your identity is never revealed and your data is never identifiable – unless you deem it so. The marketer gets the most accurate insights about the market that can be produced (direct from source), and even better – it’s done ethically (consented).
We ALL Want a WIN/WIN.
We’ve done a lot of research & testing and not surprisingly we found that “controlling your privacy” is a clear motivator for people to take control of their data.
But also unsurprisingly, we’ve found that making money with one’s data is FAR MORE motivating than privacy.
As the saying goes, “money makes the world go ‘round”.
It’s my firm belief that if people start earning enough money with their data then they’ll begin to DEMAND greater controls, regulations and mechanisms for their data privacy and harsher penalties for their data’s “theft” and exploitation. It’s a no-brainer.
And I don’t see anything wrong with it.
It’s a win for people – they’ll be able to better control their privacy, give informed consent and enhance their livelihood.
It’s a win for marketers – they’ll get better targeting and more cost-effective ad engagement. They’ll also build better relationships with people through more respectful, ethical, trust-building practices.
And it’s a win for privacy-purists – people won’t be selling their data and they’ll be taking control of their privacy through full transparency and consent.
So, Should Our Data Be Our Property?
I believe that if we give people property rights over their data then they’ll treat it with higher regard.
Like people and their backyards, some will take better care of it than others. Others will be very protective of it and yet others will do all they can to increase its value.
But that should be each of their RIGHT. Their property right.
Something Has To Change – NOW.
We should not allow the value of our data to be swindled from us any longer. And we should fight not to allow the continued swindling of our privacy and freedom.
I assert that our fundamental freedom is predicated on us having complete control and ownership rights to our data. Because without full control of the privacy of our data, there can never be freedom.
So I’ll ask it again: Why is the data we create on a daily basis not protected by copyright or some other form of property law?
I’d be very interested to have you share your answer or constructive input on this question.