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Friday, 31 January 2014

Privacy Law Meets The P2P Economy


The legal war against Big Data platforms has intensified recently, with Google on the sharp end of fines and court proceedings, and an Israeli legislative proposal that would require search engines to pay royalties on search results to the State for distribution amongst selected publishers.

But courts, regulators and the legislature are very slow trains in this fast-moving context. I worry that they are distracting us from the urgent and more productive quest for a pragmatic, humanistic solution to the root cause of the privacy problem: lack of control of our own data.

I've recently pointed to some key commercial and technological developments which can deliver that control, in a series of posts responding to Google's rather spooky 'computers vs people' meme. In essence, I've suggested that we can 'win the war' against computers for economic control of our data by transacting on peer-to-peer marketplaces, and by linking those marketplaces and our respective 'personal clouds' to form a wider 'personal data ecosystem' using the tools described in the recent Privacy by Design report.

That ecosystem will be increasingly complex, tightly coupled, dynamic and, above all, collaborative. So, as lawyers, we should be advising our respective clients to work together very closely to build a trust framework which ensures that users are readily able to understand and control how their data is being used, and that the operational and technological rules and processes are consistent with the legal rules governing the ecosystem and all its participants.

This is not 'niche' or happy clappy stuff. Designing the new economy can't be left to a lone 'data protection expert' or a pro bono team and some corporate social responsibility bods from UK plc who are merely trying 'to put something back'. It's got to be business as usual for lawyers and their clients across the board.

Interested in your thoughts.