Data Cooperative: Enabling Meaningful Collective Negotiation of Data Rights for Communities

20 Pages Posted: 8 May 2023

See all articles by Shefali Girish

Shefali Girish

Aapti Institute

Meg Avery

New York University (NYU) - New York University

Date Written: December 1, 2022


The current data economy and its extractivist data practices is reflective of the systemic discrimination in our society - leaving communities at a high risk of being excluded. There is a huge dearth of data about many communities, leading to an invisibilization of their experiences. At the same time, there is rampant misuse of data, especially of the vulnerable communities whose privacy rights and data rights are infringed. Such misuse of data leaves them susceptible to surveillance and consequent harassment with no available recourse.

It is this paper’s contention that establishing data cooperatives - an approach to data governance which unlocks data for social good while protecting the rights and interests of the communities that produce the data can go a long way in managing digital identities in ways that are inclusive, secure and trustworthy. Data cooperatives are slowly gaining momentum as institutional vehicles capable of rebalancing power in the data economy. While there is growing interest in data cooperatives and theoretical conversation on data cooperatives has become very advanced, there are still only a handful of real-world examples of data cooperatives. Thus, there is a compelling case to be made for building data cooperatives or adding a data layer on existing cooperatives that are grounded with cooperative principles and established democratic governance mechanisms.

This paper examines the viability of data cooperatives as a model to negotiate data rights for communities. This literature review looked at various approaches to data cooperatives and how data is governed, identified key features and opportunities where data cooperatives show the greatest potential for scaling up, reviewed legal codes that enable the setting up of data cooperatives, and lastly, looked at the challenges and risks that come with building and sustaining these models.

Keywords: Data Cooperative, Data Governance

Suggested Citation

Girish, Shefali and Avery, Meg, Data Cooperative: Enabling Meaningful Collective Negotiation of Data Rights for Communities (December 1, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Shefali Girish (Contact Author)

Aapti Institute ( email )

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Ulsoor Road
Bangalore, 560042
9606703865 (Phone)

Meg Avery

New York University (NYU) - New York University ( email )

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