Informed Consent - Said Who? A Feminist Perspective on Principles of Consent in the Age of Embodied Data

35 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021

See all articles by Anja Kovacs

Anja Kovacs


Tripti Jain

Internet Democracy Project

Date Written: November 2020


While consent continues to be a crucial element of data protection regimes around the world, it has also been diagnosed with numerous weaknesses as a tool to promote and protect individuals' autonomy. In this paper, we set out to learn from feminist theory around consent in general and feminist applied thinking around sexual consent in particular how consent regimes in data protection can be strengthened. We argue that such a journey will be promising because of the close entanglements between our bodies and our data. We particularly foreground feminist criticisms of the concept of “property in the person” to understand in more detail the profound harms that current data practices do to our personhood, as well as the ways in which consent is currently deployed to enable and even legitimise such practices, rather than challenge or reject them. Through close engagement with feminist thinking around consent, we then develop a list of feminist principles that will need to be followed if consent is to ever be meaningful in data governance. Finally, we outline three areas of change that the application of these principles immediately points to: changes related to the collection of data; changes related to the uses of data; and changes required to protect people who are especially vulnerable in particular. Making these shifts, we argue, is essential if we are to put into place a data infrastructure that is actually empowering for, rather than exploitative of people.

Keywords: consent, data governance, internet, feminism

JEL Classification: K10, K11, K12, K14, K36, Z18

Suggested Citation

Kovacs, Anja and Jain, Tripti, Informed Consent - Said Who? A Feminist Perspective on Principles of Consent in the Age of Embodied Data (November 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Tripti Jain

Internet Democracy Project ( email )


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