NSA scandal is about property, not privacy

Quick comment on NSA data-mining:

Despite the way Glenn Greenwald helped frame it, the NSA data-mining story is ultimately about property not privacy — namely, intellectual property. If consumers of social media are to enjoy autonomous and unambiguous privacy, as Greenwald seems to wish, consumers would first need to own the property rights to the data social media produce. They don’t. Users have no “right” to privacy because it is someone else’s property. Users are users, not owners. Even if you conceive social media users as “workers” producing the intellectual property (which is a reasonable conception, except for the fact they are paid at best with cultural capital, not income) workers legally lose intellectual property rights as agents of the organization.

It is the owners of the data, not the users, who have the property rights necessary to make a claim of privacy. Owners can share their property with anyone, including NSA.

Journalists and intellectuals covering NSA, Big Data, social media, etc, would do well to consider data first and foremost as property and as sources of economic value. These data are owned and controlled by corporations and other business interests. This represents the most salient fact. The Greenwaldian frame — that these data represent first and foremost infringements on privacy — is an incorrect story right from the start.

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This entry was posted in advanced capitalism, hard data, intangible assets, intellectual property, Media and knowledge, political sociology, politics, qualitative sociology of economics and politics, Symbolic data, the database, theoretical drivel. Bookmark the permalink.

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