Community Informatics · Social Justice

Who owns our data on the Internet

Independent of what you may believe about the ethics of the multinational agribusinesses, this Salon article raises questions about the Internet and data ownership that are of central importance. I’ve been using the Internet closely enough for long enough to have seen similar threats come and go. But in the past (for instance, when Microsoft was very close to leveraging its monopoly with the desktop computer operating system to take over control of HTML codes, creating a new monopoly in the server market). But in the past, the Department of Justice stepped in with lawsuits to avoid such abuse of monopolies. What will be the impact in today’s policy and judicial climate that favors the interests of multinationals?

I was fortunate to be able to participate in a group writing exercise to draft a declaration of Internet governance based on Community Informatics principles. One of the paragraphs in the preamble states:
“We support development of an Internet in which communities are the “first mile” and not the “last mile.” We believe the primary purpose of the Internet is not to mine data and make knowledge a commodity for purchase and sale but rather to advance community goals equally and fairly within these distributed infrastructures.”

This is not to say that John Deere, DuPont, Monsanto and others shouldn’t be able to make a profit. But it is to say that the first priority should be with the farmers & local community interests. The farm bureaus and individual farms need to be an integral part of the decision process about how data, not just the raw data but the analyzed data derivatives, are used.

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