Consent is not enough: Privacy Self-Management and the Consent Dilemmas

Great article by Daniel J. Solove in Harvard Law Review

Although privacy self-management is certainly a laudable and necessary component of any regulatory regime, I contend that it is being tasked with doing work beyond its capabilities. Privacy self-management does not provide people with meaningful control over their data. First, empirical and social science research demonstrates that there are severe cognitive problems that undermine privacy self-management. These cognitive problems impair individuals’ ability to make informed, rational choices about the costs and benefits of consenting to the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal data.

Second, and more troubling, even well-informed and rational individuals cannot appropriately self-manage their privacy due to several structural problems. There are too many entities collecting and using personal data to make it feasible for people to manage their privacy separately with each entity. Moreover, many privacy harms are the result of an aggregation of pieces of data over a period of time by different entities. It is virtually impossible for people to weigh the costs and benefits of revealing information or permitting its use transfer without an understanding of the potential downstream uses, further limiting the effectiveness of the privacy self-management framework.

In addition, privacy self-management addresses privacy in a series of isolated transactions guided by particular individuals. Privacy costs and benefits, however, are more appropriately assessed cumulatively and holistically — not merely at the individual level.

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Read the full paper here

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