The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Maria Grazia Porcedda, Primavera De Filippi: Privacy Belts on the Innovation Highway

Maria Grazia Porcedda, European University Institute


With this paper, we wish to take you on a road trip on the 'innovation highway' - a rough metaphor we propose to analyse the supposedly conflicting relationship between privacy/data protection and innovation in the context of cloud computing and big data.

We think that, today, innovative services based on cloud computing technologies and big data can be compared to roads, described as stunning and entertaining, but also dangerous (unsafe and unsecure), filled with bandits or street vendors eager to attack unprepared drivers travelling along the way.

The preferences of two imaginary travellers, Alice and Bob, will help us untangle the different claims relating to the relationship between privacy/data protection and innovation: some believe that one cannot co-exist with the other, others that the latter will always prevail over the former.

We claim, however, that there is a way to combine the two. Whether you are an inexperienced driver with an unsafe vehicle (Bob), or an experienced driver looking for an exciting drive through a panoramic road (Alice), you should be able to reach the same destination without losing control over your personal data or putting your privacy at risk.

We suggest that 'privacy belts', and a number of other road metaphors, could be used to regulate the sector in ways that satisfy the varying needs of users, while nonetheless allowing service providers to innovate.

Keywords: big data, cloud computing, data protection, innovation, privacy.

Maria Grazia Porcedda, Primavera De Filippi