What Is Data Justice? The Case for Connecting Digital Rights and Freedoms Globally

27 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2017 Last revised: 28 Jun 2017

See all articles by Linnet Taylor

Linnet Taylor

Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society

Date Written: June 26, 2017


The increasing availability of data emitted as a byproduct of people’s use of technological devices and services – has both political and practical implications for the way people are seen and treated by the state and by the private sector. Yet the data revolution is so far primarily a technical one: the power of data to sort, categorise and intervene has not yet been explicitly connected to a social justice agenda. Meanwhile, although data-driven discrimination is advancing at a similar pace to data processing technologies, awareness and mechanisms for combating it are not. This paper posits that just as an idea of justice is needed in order to establish the rule of law, an idea of data justice – fairness in the way people are made visible, represented and treated as a result of their production of digital data – is necessary to determine ethical paths through a datafying world. Based on ethnographic and comparative research in the field of critical data studies, I propose three pillars as the basis of a notion of international data justice: (in)visibility, (dis)engagement with technology and antidiscrimination. These pillars integrate positive with negative rights and freedoms, and by doing so challenge both the basis of current data protection regulations and the growing assumption that being visible through the data we emit is part of the contemporary social contract.

Keywords: big data, social justice, data governance, privacy, development, ICT4D, information justice

Suggested Citation

Taylor, Linnet, What Is Data Justice? The Case for Connecting Digital Rights and Freedoms Globally (June 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2918779 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2918779

Linnet Taylor (Contact Author)

Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society ( email )

PO Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE

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