Elizabeth Denham the information commissioner has said that what’s at stake is ‘transparency – fairness and compliance with the law’.
This is exactly right.
The companies with our data target us as individuals but appear themselves as faceless – indeed bodiless – manipulators who know far more about us than we do about them.
That asymmetry is where the novel danger to democracy lies.
The power it offers is hard to resist: one of the investigations announced by the commissioner today is into a marketing firm which approaches new mothers at their most vulnerable moment to collect their data – some of which was then sold on to the Labour party.
In all these cases the regulators are playing catchup – as is apparent from the ludicrous inadequacy of the fine on Facebook.
They are chasing a moving target.
The increasing use of internet-connected widgets in the home and on our bodies and with face recognition in every public space – ensures there will soon be unimaginable amounts of data for the unscrupulous to harvest and use.