Jonathan A. Obar (University of Ontario Institute of Technology/Michigan State University)
Note: This submission was contributed by the author(s) to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Consultation on Online Reputation.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
This document serves as a brief summary of my published and ongoing research into practical strategies for addressing digital reputation challenges. For an example of my work in the area, please review the abstract below from “Big Data and the Phantom Public: Walter Lippmann and the Fallacy of Data Privacy Self-Management” published in Big Data and Society. The contents of this summary and the example of my work provided, address the OPC’s question “(2) What practical, technical, policy or legal solutions should be considered to mitigate online reputational risks?”
Indeed, transparency is a great place to start, as is notice and choice policy; however, all are terrible places to finish. They leave digital citizens with nothing more than an empty promise of protection, an impractical opportunity for data privacy self-management, and as Daniel Solove analogizes ‘too much homework’.Footnote 5 It should be acknowledged that the OPC correctly places specific emphasis on the digital reputation challenges unique to children. If current policy has yet to make data privacy self-management possible for adults, what hope is there for children? This question further emphasizes the importance of calling-out the incompleteness of the unattainable ideal.
Moving forward, I recommend three strategies:
- For policymakers to recognize and acknowledge that notice and choice policy is a great place to start, but an unrealistic place to finish if we are ever to realize digital reputation outcomes that will empower and protect digital citizens,
- The development and support of representative data management services to act as infomediaries to enable digital citizens the opportunity to delegate responsibility via a principal-agent relationship. Services currently operating in the financial sector (e.g. Lifelock), and those targeting university students going on the job market (e.g. Rep'nUp), among others, aught to be the subject of various knowledge translation efforts, and
- To promote a form of data justice, Rawlsian/Senian regulatory philosophy aught to be employed.Footnote 6 This would involve the development of policies ensuring representative data management services are targeted towards communities more likely to be the subject of Big Data-driven discrimination.
I am currently conducting research in each of these areas and would be very pleased to contribute my working and published papers to your deliberations.
I have read and understood the consultation procedures. These comments are meant to implicate the OPC and the Federal government.
Thank you for your consideration.
(Original signed by)
Jonathan A. Obar, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Research Associate, Quello Centre for Telecommunications Management and Law, Michigan State University
Obar, J.A. (2015). Big Data and the Phantom Public: Walter Lippmann and the fallacy of data privacy self-management. Big data and society, 2(2), 1-16.
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