The Problems with Managing Privacy by Asking and Giving Consent
New paper from the Harvard Law Review by Daniel Solove: “Privacy Self-Management and the Consent Dilemma“:
Privacy self-management takes refuge in consent. It attempts to be neutral about substance—whether certain forms of collecting, using, or disclosing personal data are good or bad—and instead focuses on whether people consent to various privacy practices. Consent legitimizes nearly any form of collection, use, or disclosure of personal data. Although privacy self-management is certainly a laudable and necessary component of any regulatory regime, I contend that it is being tasked with doing work beyond its capabilities. Privacy self-management does not provide people with meaningful control over their data. First, empirical and social science research demonstrates that there are severe cognitive problems that undermine privacy self-management. These cognitive problems impair individuals’ ability to make informed, rational choices about the costs and benefits of consenting to the collection, use, and disclosure of their personal data.
Second, and more troubling, even well-informed and rational individuals cannot appropriately self-manage their privacy due to several structural problems. There are too many entities collecting and using personal data to make it feasible for people to manage their privacy separately with each entity. Moreover, many privacy harms are the result of an aggregation of pieces of data over a period of time by different entities. It is virtually impossible for people to weigh the costs and benefits of revealing information or permitting its use or transfer without an understanding of the potential downstream uses, further limiting the effectiveness of the privacy self-management framework.