Data Pollution

38 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2018  

Omri Ben-Shahar

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: June 2017

Abstract

Digital information is the fuel of the new economy. But like the old economy's carbon fuel, it also pollutes. Harmful "data emissions" are leaked into the digital ecosystem, disrupting social institutions and public interests. This article develops a novel framework- data pollution-to rethink the harms the data economy creates and the way they have to be regulated. It argues that social intervention should focus on the external harms from collection and misuse of personal data. The article challenges the hegemony of the prevailing view-that the harm from digital data enterprise is to the privacy of the people whose information is used. It claims that a central problem has been largely ignored: how the information individuals give affects others, and how it undermines and degrade public goods and interests. The data pollution metaphor offers a novel perspective why existing regulatory tools-torts, contracts, and disclosure law-are ineffective, mirroring their historical futility in curbing the external social harms from environmental pollution. The data pollution framework also opens up a rich roadmap for new regulatory devices-an environmental law for data protection-that focus on controlling these external effects. The article examines whether the general tools society has long used to control industrial pollution-production restrictions, carbon tax, and emissions liability-could be adapted to govern data pollution.

Suggested Citation

Ben-Shahar, Omri, Data Pollution (June 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3191231 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3191231

Omri Ben-Shahar (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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