Big Data Justice: A Case for Regulating The Global Information Commons

Journal of Politics 83 (2):577-588 (2021)
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The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) challenges political theorists to think about data ownership and policymakers to regulate the collection and use of public data. AI producers benefit from free public data for training their systems while retaining the profits. We argue against the view that the use of public data must be free. The proponents of unconstrained use point out that consuming data does not diminish its quality and that information is in ample supply. Therefore, they suggest, publicly available data should be free. We present two objections. First, allowing free data use promotes unwanted inequality. Second, contributors of information did not and could not anticipate that their contribution would be used to train AI systems. Therefore, charging for extensive data use is pro tanto permissible and desirable. We discuss policy implications and propose a progressive data use tax to counter the inequality arising.



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Author Profiles

Kai Spiekermann
London School of Economics
Holly Lawford-Smith
University of Melbourne

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Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
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Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality.R. M. Dworkin - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (208):377-389.
Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality.G. A. Cohen - 1995 - Cambridge University Press.

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