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We are Big Data: New Technologies and Personal Data Management

Atualizado: 25 de nov. de 2020

Autor : Eduardo Magrani

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*Published on Cyberlaw by CIJIC Edição n.º 5


Technology has advanced rapidly and contributed to improve the way we live. In addition to interfering with how individuals act, it changes the way people relate to each other, to business, and to government. The many changes emphasize the need to give importance to the individual and to have a multisectoral dynamics to build a sustainable Internet governance. It is undeniable that new technologies bring benefits. However, there are regulatory and ethical questions related to their use. With more and more connected devices, related to the scenario that has been called Internet of Things (IoT)[1], there are several risks and challenges, such as those related to the right to privacy.

Data generated through the use of these numerous smart devices are collected and stored by companies, which do not always act transparently. Terms of use and service are often extremely technical and unintelligible to the general population. It is not uncommon that the intended purpose of the data be hidden from the users themselves, who have no control over the information that refers to them. Given the voluminous amount of data produced daily, this becomes even more worrisome, especially since the “Big Data” phenomenon goes far beyond a tangle of data, being essentially relational. We must bear in mind that Big Data is us, and therefore we must have a critical conscience about it and think about possibilities to regain control over our personal data.

With ownership and availability of our data, companies use techniques such as targeting, tracking, and profiling to target their marketing policies to the way we live and our needs – or to what they make us believe to be a necessity. In this way, discussions about the right to privacy are inextricably linked to discussions about the use and management of data. The technological advance requires adaptations of the legal order to the new scenarios, which can happen, for example, through the legislative action or the interpretive activity. These solutions are not always effective: on the one hand, the sociopolitical conjuncture and the technological pattern change much more rapidly than legislation can accompany, and, on the other hand, paternalistic and corporative distance from the will of individuals. Thus, new ways to protect the right to privacy and to increase the control that Internet users have about their own data have emerged as an alternative.

In this sense, the MyData project was created. It is basically a system whose objective is to place the individual at the center of personal data so that they themselves have control of the information produced about themselves, being free from the abusive control of data currently exercised by companies. It adopts a perspective centered on the human being, and no longer on the things or the information itself. In the current management model, the data is from those who collect it. Individuals to whom the information refers to, do not even know in general the purpose for which they are used, which creates serious privacy problems and fails to meet the principle of transparency. The new system seeks to create a scenario in which users have their human rights respected in the digital environment and can control their data while creating barriers to business innovation that can develop based on mutual trust.

The present study aims to analyze this project in a more detailed way and seeks to highlight the benefits it can bring to the protection of privacy and the taking of control over personal data by the individuals themselves. To do this, we will first present a brief overview about the right to privacy, its contours and the impact of new technologies. In a second moment, aspects related to Big Data will be analyzed, so that a more delineated notion about the production and storage of data is made. Third, we will present in more detail the personal data management project mentioned above. We conclude with an analysis of how this project tends to contribute to the protection of privacy in the context of new technologies.

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