You Are Your Data - And you should demand the right to use it.

I wrote about some of the policy implications of my Quantified Self research for Slate Future Tense.

Over the last year, I talked with many members of the Quantified Self community to understand how they use their personal data in their everyday lives. Throughout my research, I kept hearing variations on a theme: People complained that they can’t access their data, and that it is siloed in proprietary platforms and interfaces. The QS community values the ability to correlate across datasets, to visualize in novel ways, to ask questions of the data that a proprietary interface might not allow. But firms’ proprietary controls over data often limit individuals’ ability to derive personal insights about their health, behaviors, and so on. This may sound like something that only interests a small, tech-savvy group of people, but as consumer self-tracking takes off and we connect our homes to the Internet of Things, we will all need to start developing new data literacies. So the QS community’s gripes today give us an indication of where policies will need to evolve…

I propose that we should have a “right to use” our personal data: I should be able to access and make use of data that refers to me. At best, a right to use would reconcile both my personal interest in the small-scale insights and the firms’ large-scale interests in big data insights from the larger population. These interests are not in conflict with each other.

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