Dilemmas of Data Gathering

Published on March 29, 2018 | 1 min read

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) directive taking effect soon, it’s worth reflecting on the often-ignored societal concerns raised by wide data gathering.

As companies in many sectors, including insurance, develop new “data-driven” products, is this going too far? Users’ data can be collected legally since various regulations just frame the scope of data collection.

Annet Aris, a well-respected professor, articulates three dilemmas face by companies gathering data from customers and users:

  • How far can you go buying data? Most of us give away our data in search of a good deal. But if lower income persons are left without a real choice, then would data privacy only be possible for the rich?
  • Is this the end of solidarity? When an individual’s specific risks are known in detail, there will be “unlucky” people who may be discriminated against.
  • Is it acceptable to use data to influence people’s behavior? All those companies using deep knowledge about us to influence our behavior may limit our right to free will. “The pursuit of individual digital business interests can lead to significant negative externalities for society as a whole” is an appropriate warning for our time.