GDPR: Avoiding Harms and Expanding Risk

“But what’s the harm?” Far too often, this is one of the biggest questions posed in debates about the value of privacy and the costs of violating it in the United States. Just last fall, the Federal Trade Commission conducted a workshop exploring the contours of “informational injury”, in which CDT participated. Discussions around the event highlighted a conflict we commonly have with commercial actors: Industry participants repeatedly criticized any consideration of abstract or hypothetical privacy harms, but CDT cautioned that meaningful protections for individuals’ dignity and personal autonomy demand a broader understanding of privacy risk that considers user expectations and concerns. What Is a Privacy Risk? When it comes to the economics of privacy, data tends to distort the relationship between companies and individuals. Individuals will likely undervalue their privacy while companies tend to be overly optimistic about the potential…

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