Open Data and Privacy – at OGP Summit Mexico City Plenary Session – 2015.10.29

by | Feb 3, 2016 | Open Blog, Open Government, Open Net | 0 comments

The biggest threat to open data movement is RTBF based on data protection law.  I like RTBF as long as it is narrowly tailored to protect privacy.  I like data protection law, which I rely on almost all my privacy litigations in Korea.  If you mix RTBF and a mechanistic interpretation of data protection law, you get a disaster, which is the Google Spain decision.

“You own your data”, people say.  If I find a blue sky beautiful, is that the sky’s data or my data?  Most of you will say mine. If I find your pale blue eyes beautiful, is that my data or your data? Most of you will say yours.  Why do I suddenly lose data ownership just because the object I find beautiful is a human being?

What does it mean to own data anyway?  New Testament, Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verse 1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  Nothing else, the Word. El Verbo.  Nobody owned the Word.

What is civilization?  I go to leave my shirts at a neighborhood laundry and I don’t have to say anything.  He recognizes me and he will even remind me to pick up things I have forgotten to pick up for weeks.  How is this relationship possible?

A lot of times, civilization is about entrusting your personal data with another person to be recognized as you.

  • Ultra-violet rays are an anathema to youthful-looking faces. But when you walk out of your home, you cover all parts of the body but leave out your face.  Why do you do that?  Because you want to be recognized as you.  Your whole career as a pedestrian is about exuding personal data to everybody on the street.
  • When I teach you how to make a great margarita, you just don’t receive impersonal data from me, you also receive personal data, i.e., the fact that I make margarita a certain way.
  • When you write a poem praising a small mountain, you are not just creating impersonal data. That mountain is somebody’s mountain.  Some people live near there will develop certain loyalty to that mountain.  You are creating personal data about those people because you will be talking about those people’s mountain.

What I am trying to say is, data ownership is only a metaphor to protect the human interest of privacy.    How can you claim ownership on the blueness of your eyes?  Not because you actually own the visual sensations taking place in other people’s eyes but because you may want to be private about the blueness of your eyes and your such wish should be granted if we want to grant ourselves freedom.

The concept of data ownership is only a metaphor and should be used as such.  It was created to equalize the bargaining power of individuals entering into data transactions with corporations and goverment agencies, by upgrading their otherwise difficult-to-enforce contractual right into that of a property.  We will all become the Procrustes, the villain from Greek mythology, if we stretch the metaphor to cover all data even if (1) publicly available or even if (2) anonymized but personally identifiable using publicly available data.


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