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The Dark Data Cycle: How the U.S. Government Has Gone Rogue in Trading Personal Data from an Unsuspecting Public

185 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2013  

Melissa Oppenheim

Harvard University

Date Written: March 25, 2012

Abstract

While the historical and legal relationship in the U.S. between privacy expectations and privacy protections has remained a continuously evolving topic, this thesis demonstrates how this relationship has grown increasingly muddled since the midtwentieth century. Contrary to existing law, this thesis argues that a new phenomenon, the “Data Cycle,” has developed in the twenty-first century whereby governmental entities employ private companies as middlemen to buy and sell individuals’ data. Politicians in particular are extremely interested in obtaining information about their constituents. This thesis contends that the Data Cycle has developed due to a shift in informational power between the government and private companies, permitting the government to indirectly acquire large amounts of personal information from individuals online. Although Americans remain concerned about their waning privacy protections, individuals’ increasing addiction to the very technologies that spur the Cycle has pushed privacy to a crossroads in 2012.

Keywords: privacy, data, big data, privacy act of 1974, government data, open data, data collection, data.gov, de-identifying data, anonymized data

Suggested Citation

Oppenheim, Melissa, The Dark Data Cycle: How the U.S. Government Has Gone Rogue in Trading Personal Data from an Unsuspecting Public (March 25, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2279031 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2279031

Melissa Oppenheim (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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