Critics of far and wide used internet communication services have alerted about the misuse of personal data since the 1990s and the rise of the World Wide Web. Yes, misuse. Far and wide used.
They view data – particularly data about people – central to what has been termed informational capitalism parallel with a familiar uneasiness concerning state surveillance and user privacy. (Viljoen, 2020)
These same critics reveal datafication – the transformation of information into commodity – as serving a dual role:
- a process of production
- a form of injustice.
That is, the creation, collection, and use of personal data feature as unjust.
- Shoshanna Zuboff – in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – describes our lives as being invaded and strip mined of data by companies seeking profits. Thus, likening us to a pre-Colonial continent.
- Jathan Sadowski links the imperative to collect data to the perpetual cycle of capital accumulation, identifying data – your personal data and mine – as a distinct form of capital.
- Julie Cohen identifies the processing of personal information in “data refineries” as a fourth factor of production under informational capitalism, tracing the “quasi-ownership through enclosure” of data. (Viljoen, 2020)
Data governance surfaces as key terrain on which to regulate firms engaged in datafication by responding – urgently – to the injustices of informational capitalism. And not waiting for “official” critiques to breed proposals for reform.
Addressing “the social ills” generated by the technology industry, activists, advocates, artists, community organizers, educators, political candidates, researchers, scholars, scientists, students … have proposed data governance reforms. How about us?
Me? You? What can U propose?