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Do data rights come with data obligations?

Nextwork CEO Thomas Albrechtsen and partner of Analyse & Tal Tobias Bornakke challenge the general perception of public digital data in a new article published by Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information.

The two authors argue, that we ought to consider a more solidary approach to the concept of sharing data. The social turn in the perception of public data is simple: all major agents should contribute to the pool of public data, in order to minimize monopolization and support research, transparency and democratic development.

When it comes to data, everyone seems to worry exclusively about their individual right not to be measured, tracked, filed, and observed. While this concern is honest and understandable, our fear of being monitored has so far led us to allow for further monopolization of the data collected by tech giants such as Facebook and Google. This, along with our resistance towards collection and pooling of public data by other organizations, will greatly weaken research within medicine, social science, infrastructure, communication, and language.

Can we justify our aversion against public data, when the scientific development and understanding of our social interactions and communities are suffering? Does it make us feel more safe, that the global pool of digital data is exclusively for tech giants to utilize? According to Albrechtsen and Bornakke, it shouldn’t. 

While everyone agrees, that data should be managed safely and with proficiency, and that GDPR is a step towards increased data security, a lot of professionals lament the further monopolization, which the GDPR, and recent violations of data regulations, have brought about. Scientists and researchers are suffering, as tech giants are manifesting their absolutism by locking away data in their servers.

Capitalist and totalitarian states are already benefiting from the possibilities of extensive data-collection. More effort should be put into developing socially sustainable and democratic data systems in Europe. The most well-functioning democratic states should lead the way and explore the possibilities of safe collection and use of public data. Albrechtsen and Bornakke also believe, that the only way to break the data monopoly, is to have tech giants make their data publicly available for responsible agents to scrutinize.

Read the article here (Danish):