Fragile or Smart Consumers? Suggestions for the US from the EU
Stanford Law School and the University of Vienna School of Law TTLF Working Paper No. 36/2018. A modified version is forthcoming in Computer Law and Security Review (2019)
23 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2018 Last revised: 11 Mar 2019
Date Written: August 8, 2018
Due to advances in data processing, the use of digital technology is now widespread in many sectors of the world economy. It is possible that, in the near future, only a few markets will remain unaffected by this new industrial revolution. Therefore, even though this new stage in human progress raises some concerns, it is important to understand the many innovations that the digital economy has brought about. In particular, many worry about the millions of passive and relatively powerless digital consumers who, without proper education or awareness, could find themselves manipulated by a few huge and influential companies. This paper will discuss the current state of affairs without fueling any further fear of the digital revolution by rejecting the premise that regulation can be used only as a shield to protect fragile digital consumers. Rather, by taking inspiration from some recent regulations enacted in the European Union, the paper posits that regulation can be used as a sword in the hands of consumers that grants them a leading role in the digital marketplace. It is important to consider how new rules might empower consumers and allow them to make decisions regarding the management of their personal data. After all, one of the cultural roots of Western societies is that every individual should be faber ipsius fortunae, i.e. individuals must forge and build their own destiny and must then be accountable for their choices.
Keywords: Digital markets; big data; personal data; consumers; data control; data portability
JEL Classification: D83, K20, L50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation