Protecting individual data is not enough when the harms are collective

The harm to any one individual in a group that results from a violation of privacy rights might be relatively small or hard to pin down, but the harm to the group as a whole can be profound.

Great article. Quotes (emphasis added by me):

This can be a tricky concept to understand. Class action lawsuits, where many individuals join together even though each might have suffered only a small harm, are a good conceptual analogy. Big tech companies understand the commercial benefits they can derive from analyzing the data of groups while superficially protecting the data of individuals through mathematical techniques like differential privacy. But regulators continue to focus on protecting individuals or, at best, protected classes like people of particular genders, ages, ethnicities, or sexual orientations.

Individuals should not have to fight for their data privacy rights and be responsible for every consequence of their digital actions. Consider an analogy: people have a right to safe drinking water, but they aren’t urged to exercise that right by checking the quality of the water with a pipette every time they have a drink at the tap. Instead, regulatory agencies act on everyone’s behalf to ensure that all our water is safe. The same must be done for digital privacy: it isn’t something the average user is, or should be expected to be, personally competent to protect.

Apple promises in one advertisement: “Right now, there is more private information on your phone than in your home. Your locations, your messages, your heart rate after a run. These are private things. And they should belong to you.” Apple is reinforcing this individualist’s fallacy: by failing to mention that your phone stores more than just your personal data, the company obfuscates the fact that the really valuable data comes from your interactions with your service providers and others. The notion that your phone is the digital equivalent of your filing cabinet is a convenient illusion. Companies actually care little about your personal data; that is why they can pretend to lock it in a box. The value lies in the inferences drawn from your interactions, which are also stored on your phone—but that data does not belong to you.

@DrBenjamin1@lemmy.ca
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