Primitives of Legal Protection in the Era of Data-Driven Platforms

18 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018

See all articles by Mireille Hildebrandt

Mireille Hildebrandt

Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Radboud University

Date Written: March 14, 2018


In this essay I discuss the political economy of data driven platforms in terms of monopolies and monopsonies, arguing that the concentration of buying and selling power builds on and extends a pseudo-omniscient data architecture that feeds on an increasingly seamless data ecosystem. As the mathematical underpinnings of data driven architectures are further extended into the hardware of smart homes, driverless cars and smart cities, they may at some point diminish or eradicate the semantic discontinuity that provides room for dissent and dissonance. Such discontinuity depends on a text driven environment and affordances such as dissonance and adversariality cannot be taken for granted in the pervasive data ecosystem that drives the political economy of platforms. I contend that we need a small set of primitives of legal protection to shoot holes in the semantic continuity that is generated by the backend systems of data driven platforms; competition law, consumer law and tort law cannot contribute to the effective contestability of algorithmic decision-making all by themselves. They require effective and practical rights to data minimisation and purpose limitation and an actionable right not to be subject to automated decisions without a contestable justification. Once these primitives of legal protection are operational both the pseudo-omniscient nature of data architectures and the seamless nature of data ecosystems will be ruptured, thus reinstating the interstices for innovation, and for meaningful individual and political self-determination.

Keywords: platforms, monopoly, monopsony, semantic discontinuity, semantic dissonance, data driven architecture, data driven ecosystem, data protection law, automated decisions

Suggested Citation

Hildebrandt, Mireille, Primitives of Legal Protection in the Era of Data-Driven Platforms (March 14, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Mireille Hildebrandt (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Brussel ( email )

Pleinlaan 2
Brussels, B-1050


Radboud University ( email )

P.O. Box 9010
Nijmegen, 6500GL

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