Just in Case e-zine: Personal Data: The New “Oil” of The Digital Economy

Modern society is experiencing an unprecedented “data boom”, fundamentally altering and adding sophistication to all human activities, which are thus becoming ever more information-driven. Numerous studies convincingly show that such “data universe” in full expansion impacts businesses (which need to understand and adjust to a dynamic environment), as well as consumers (which are both the fundamental source and the ultimate beneficiaries of shifting commercial trends). In 2012, The Boston Consulting Group estimated that the volume of global data transactions increases annually by 45%, which means that the data volume doubles every one–and- a- half years. As a relevant dimension of this process, the history of internet browsing indicates that the total internet traffic has experienced an outstanding growth in the past two decades. In 1992, global internet networks carried approximately 100 GB of traffic per day. In 2002, that amounted to 100 GB per second, while in 2015 global internet traffic reached more than 20,000 GB per second1. This data and information revolution brings about new economic, social and ethical challenges, as individuals become not only consumers, but also providers of a very valuable asset: their personal data, often referred to as “the new oil” which the industry is keen to process for powering-up lucrative operations. As illustrative as this comparison may sound, one must keep in mind that personal data is not a resource waiting to be harvested and exploited. Use of personal data needs to be calibrated so as to ensure the protection of fundamental rights, especially privacy and data protection, without affecting economic expansion. On the one hand, consumers whose data are harvested by the industry have a legal right that their personal data be used for legitimate purposes, which the consumers are duly and timely made aware of. Consumers expect that, when handling their personal data, the industry makes sure such data is protected against misuse. Statistics show however that there are considerable worries about privacy, and these worries can negatively affect the business. On the other hand, given the high commercial potential of personal data, the industry may see rules on protection of personal data as an obstacle to their development.

This article was first published in Just in Case, an electronic magazine by Țuca Zbârcea & Asociații. To read the entire article, please go to: http://www.tuca.ro/just_in_case/