'Controlling Personal Data' & VRM · Monday July 02, 2012 by Crosbie Fitch
In “Your personal data is not worth anywhere near what you think it’s worth” Jerry Neumann ends with “I spent several years of my life trying to build a business that lets people take control of their own data while still leaving a way for marketers to find them. I believe in privacy”
Privacy is not something to be believed in. It has to be self-evident.
If we imagine privacy is the power to control what others do with the ‘personal’ data they collect from their transactions with us, then lacking this power innately, it cannot be obtained – unless the state grants us a privilege to prosecute those who fail to believe we have this power.
Privacy is the right to keep others excluded from that which we have the innate and physical power to exclude others from, e.g. the space about our person, the interior of our walled house, the space about us & those we are having a (private) discussion with, the interior of our physically bounded messages (envelopes), etc. We have no power to buy some cigarettes from someone and prohibit them from revealing this purchase to others (they will be discrete – if they are an individual with a reputation to worry about).
There are still others spending years of their lives trying to perpetuate businesses that rely upon people being able to control the distribution and use of their intellectual works – or rather an 18th century privilege that lets people prosecute those who fail to believe they have this power of control.
We’re not going to get anywhere if we attempt to build things based upon the powers of control we believe we have (or believe we should have), as opposed to the powers of control we do have.
On the Internet there are about two things we control that are relevant: our speech (inalienable) and our property (alienable). That means we can publish what we’re interested in, what we have, and contract to exchange what we have for what we want. This is ample power for VRM (as it has been for business between people since time immemorial).
We can neither surrender nor exchange our freedom of speech concerning our interactions or transactions, nor can we claim the power to constrain others’ freedom of speech respectively. Nevertheless, the faithful will continue to believe otherwise, that people do have the power to “take control of their own data”. If this includes you, read the above again.