Personal data is non-rivalrous

This is absolutely crucial to understanding the issues that can and do arise with protecting one’s personal data, and the ability to have control over it. I am currently trying to think through the implications of the non-rivalrous nature of personal data.

By “non-rivalrous” I am thinking of how the use (or processing) of your personal data by one individual or by one organization does not prevent its use by someone else.

A good is considered non-rivalrous or non-rival if, for any level of production, the cost of providing it to a marginal (additional) individual is zero.

“We need to allow the individual to get much more of the value of the data about them, and because data is non-rivalrous this can be done without reducing the value of the data to the data holder. Moreover, this can be done in ways which respect the privacy, commercial and other interests of all the parties concerned”.
Source : Nigel Shadbolt, Midata: towards a personal information revolution IN Digital Enlightenment Yearbook 2013: the value of personal data edited by M Hildebrandt et al

A few years back the UK government were promoting the midata project which envisaged data portability. The problem was that there was little incentive for companies to cooperate if it made life easier for customers to get access to their data (such as usage data) in order to be able to switch suppliers. It is worth noting that the General Data Protection Regulation, which will be implemented in May 2018, contains a right to data portability.
“Data have been described as a ‘non-rivalrous’ good in that they can be used for multiple purposes on multiple occasions without reducing their value for other users. Data are unlike other economic goods in that their value depends on the means of combining them and extracting knowledge from them”.
Source: Report of workshop on privacy, consumers, competition and big data (EDPS, 2014)
Advertisements