A blind non-informed consent culture

Big data and artificial intelligence are constantly innovating and widely used in people’s daily life, bringing human society into the era of the digital economy. People gradually realize that personal information is a kind of data resource with high value, and the growth rate of network users is also very alarming. In platform capitalism, data is gold, which creates great commercial value. As a result, applications and services related to personal information have sprung up.

Due to the continuous improvement of computer computing power, information storage, and sharing capabilities, all user behaviors on the Internet have left traces of data, which directly leads to the intensification of personal privacy leakage. So what does the privacy policy bring to people?

A privacy policy is a statement that explains in simple language how an organization or agency handles your personal information. It enables users to have certain control over their personal data. Also, the privacy policy has restrictive functions on social platforms. Social platforms pursue commercial interests. If there is no privacy policy to restrict the collection and use of personal information, it will lead to an unlimited expansion of the right to use personal information. Moreover, administrative agencies can use privacy policies to implement supervision functions to understand the platforms’ use of users’ personal information and whether there is any violation of users’ related rights and interests. The existence of a privacy policy can better realize healthy social interactions.

Nevertheless, the privacy policy implies the attribute of ‘Overlord Clause’. For users, platforms are the more powerful side. Faced with the privacy policy unilaterally provided by social platforms, users only have the option of agreeing/disagreeing, and cannot make choices about the type of information disclosed and the way in which the information is used. This is the biggest problem in terms of the form of the privacy policy. Once the user disagrees, it means that the user cannot use all the services provided by the social platform, so the user can only choose to agree. Users themselves are in a relatively weak position, and the data collected by social media, and potentially at the disposal of the platform, are quite copious. This kind of “consent” cannot accommodate the different needs of different individuals for information disclosure, which greatly affects the user’s experience of using the app, and increases the user’s unknown and insecure sense of information security in the use of platform functions. In addition, in order to more conveniently enjoy the services provided by the platform, users will unknowingly provide the platform with personal information content beyond imagination. As Solove said, it is difficult to assert that the platform will not reveal information that people might want to hide, because we don’t know precisely what is revealed. This is similar to the ‘Overlord Clause’ to a large extent. The privacy policy of platforms seems to leave digital citizens with empty promises of protection and unrealistic opportunities for self-management of data privacy.

With the increasing importance and use of these platform services, the consent culture of the internet has become a blind non-informed consent culture, heavily relying on social incentives and group dynamics in decision-making that are not adequately reflected in current and upcoming privacy regulation. Both personal protection awareness and industry self-discipline need to be strengthened, but more dependent on the country’s strong laws to guarantee it. The country must formulate and improve laws.