The Right to be Paid for Data

Hi Everyone,

I hope your paper writing is going well. I recently submitted my paper on privacy in the data economy, and whether there should be a right for individuals to be paid for providing data.

In my paper, I argue that there is substantial unfairness in the current bargain between Big Data companies and people. Big Data corporations are some of the most profitable companies in the world, and a significant part of their profitability can be attributed to the use and collection of data provided by people. While these corporations could likely argue that providing data is the cost of admission for the right to use popular services for free, it is arguably not a consensual bargain. The SCC, in Douez v Facebook, has recognized that individuals enter into this bargain from a position of grossly uneven bargaining power, and have no choice but to take-it-or-leave it.

Further, current data policy in Canada (such as PIPEDA) and around the world does little to protect an individual’s right to choose to provide data, nor does it adequately protect against data security breaches. I argue that establishing a right to be paid for data could ameliorate the current inequity in the data economy by forcing corporations to put their money where their mouth is, among other reasons.

My paper then explores the ways in which such a right could be established, such as through breaches of the various provincial Privacy Acts, or various common law actions. However, my paper concludes that the most effective way to establish this right is through legislative reform, although this comes with significant hurdles, such as corporate and stakeholder backlash.

My paper concludes that establishing a right to be paid for data would acknowledge the fact that personal information fuels a growing number of algorithms and AI technologies that will impact lives for the foreseeable future, and that data breaches are becoming more devastating and costly as the years go on. I also argue that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, and it should be recognized as such in Canada. In summary, it appears to be an appropriate time to recognize an individual right to be paid for their data.

If you are interested in reading more on this relatively radical idea, here are a few links to interesting articles and papers:

“Should we treat data as labor? Moving beyond free”: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/pandp.20181003

“A deluge of data is giving rise to a new economy”: https://www.economist.com/special-report/2020/02/20/a-deluge-of-data-is-giving-rise-to-a-new-economy

“Should tech companies pay us for our data?” (podcast): https://www.cbc.ca/radio/frontburner/should-tech-companies-pay-us-for-our-data-1.5031815

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *