Privacy As Intellectual Property?
Pamela Samuelson, Professor of Information Management and of Law, University of California at Berkeley
Information privacy is a scarce commodity in cyberspace. The technical infrastructure of cyberspace makes it remarkably easy and cheap to collect substantial amounts of information identifiable to particular individuals. Once these data have been collected, information technologies make it very easy and cheap to process the data in any number of ways (for example, to make profiles of particular users’ interests). Although some privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) are being developed and deployed, these technologies have thus far done little to make cyberspace more privacy-friendly. The market incentives for firms to collect and process personal data are very high. Data about users is not only useful in assessing how a firm might improve its service for its customers, but it also has become a key commercial asset which firms use both for internal marketing purposes and for licensing to third parties.