Risks of greater data reuse

What all reuse examples have in common is that to realise their benefits we have to share data.

Data can be integrated and reused in ways that are outside of your control and ways that can be personally, socially, or commercially harmful. The risks of this sharing are obvious in the case of deeply personal data. Personal data can be used by the people we know and by complete strangers to bully and blackmail us or steal our identity. It can also be used by government agencies or private companies to target us by using our data for enforcement or advertising. This constitutes manipulation – either psychological (if you are a marketer with no coercive powers engaged in customer behavioural engineering) or coercive (if you are a policy analyst in government pursuing social engineering).

But there may be other reasons, besides protecting personal privacy, why the producers of data see risks in sharing it. My data may be misused, affecting my reputation, reducing the value I get from exclusive possession,or breaching commitments I have made to others who supplied me with it. If you have commercial interests, these can be eroded by others with access to your data. Scientists spend a lot of time collecting reliable data and rightly have interests in reaping the value from publishing their research before rivals. Artists struggle to retain creative control over their work.

Clearly most of the current systems for management of data are dedicated to controlling these risks – but they rarely do so in the context of a commons. How – and why – access to and reuse of data is controlled goes a long way to explaining why creation of a commons faces real challenges.

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