Deregulating Collection: Must Privacy Give Way to Use Regulation?

42 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2017  

Helen Nissenbaum

Cornell Tech; New York University

Date Written: May 1, 2017


Projected benefits of data science and the paradigm of big data are incompatible with the regulation of information collection, according to the requirements of privacy. So goes a compelling and popular position that I have labelled big data exceptionalism. My article traces the debate between those who would forgo privacy in favor of use regulation and those who continue to assert the affirmative value of constraints on collection in the name of privacy. I challenge big data exceptionalism. First, it plays suspiciously well with the business model of dominant commercial incumbants, which rankles at any effort to contain their practices. More importantly, however, big data exceptionalism relies on misconceptions and ambiguities of key terms and is propped up by grossly flawed arguments and exaggerated claims of what is at stake for the public interest. Although there is no denying the many benefits of data science as well as its perplexing and unprecedented challenges to privacy, big data exceptionalism offers no guarantee of the former while it undermines a cornerstone of individual freedom and social integrity.

Keywords: big data, data science, privacy, big data exceptionalism, information law, information regulation, privacy regulation

Suggested Citation

Nissenbaum, Helen, Deregulating Collection: Must Privacy Give Way to Use Regulation? (May 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Helen F. Nissenbaum (Contact Author)

Cornell Tech ( email )

111 8th Avenue #302
New York, NY 10011
United States

New York University ( email )

New York, NY 10003
United States
212-998-5251 (Phone)

Register to support our free research


Paper statistics

Abstract Views