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Beyond Data: Reclaiming Human Rights at the Dawn of the Metaverse

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Why laws focused on data cannot effectively protect people—and how an approach centered on human rights offers the best hope for preserving human dignity and autonomy in a cyberphysical world.

Ever-pervasive technology poses a clear and present danger to human dignity and autonomy, as many have pointed out. And yet, for the past fifty years, we have been so busy protecting data that we have failed to protect people. In Beyond Data , Elizabeth Renieris argues that laws focused on data protection, data privacy, data security and data ownership have unintentionally failed to protect core human values, including privacy. And, as our collective obsession with data has grown, we have, to our peril, lost sight of what’s truly at stake in relation to technological development—our dignity and autonomy as people.

Far from being inevitable, our fixation on data has been codified through decades of flawed policy. Renieris provides a comprehensive history of how both laws and corporate policies enacted in the name of data privacy have been fundamentally incapable of protecting humans. Her research identifies the inherent deficiency of making data a rallying point in itself—data is not an objective truth, and what’s more, its “entirely contextual and dynamic” status makes it an unstable foundation for organizing. In proposing a human rights–based framework that would center human dignity and autonomy rather than technological abstractions, Renieris delivers a clear-eyed and radically imaginative vision of the future.

At once a thorough application of legal theory to technology and a rousing call to action, Beyond Data boldly reaffirms the value of human dignity and autonomy amid widespread disregard by private enterprise at the dawn of the metaverse.

240 pages, Hardcover

Published February 7, 2023

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Elizabeth M Renieris

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
August 14, 2023
A popular book that can help us against a dystopian future.

Renieris provides certain arguments that have the potential of changing the way we look at (personal) data and (human) rights.
In a world where everything is connected, and a vast array of data is collected, the distinction between personal and non-personal data stops to be meaningful. Criticising the value of distinguishing between personal and non-personal data, means hitting at the core EU data protection law (GDPR), whose protection only comes into play when personal data are processed.
In this regard, Renieris argues that we should shift our focus from the data to the effect that a certain activity or technology has on people.

Another important argument concerns the use of the human rights framework to identify and analyse the risks created by the use of advanced cyberphysical systems. As these technologies are, purposefully, designed to alter or extend our shared reality, Renieris argues that they have the potential of diminishing our participation in a democratic society, as free, autonomous and safe people. Beyond privacy and freedom of expression, the legality of these powerful technologies should be assessed against a broader set of rights, including non-discrimination, human dignity and self-determination, as well as the absolute freedom of thought and conscience and the right to disconnect.

The book also provides clever arguments against the “datafication” of human experience and the limits of privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) to deal with broader systematic issues.

This book is an ideal read not only for the ones, like me, busy with the legal and ethics aspects of emerging (AI) technologies, but for everyone who is trying to make sense of this “post-digital”, “cyberphysical” world we are currently living in.
4 reviews
May 26, 2023
This book is based on an interesting and potentially important premise. However, there is a good bit of repetition and focus on the evolution of technology (e.g., internet), which doesn't contribute much to the overall point of the book on my opinion. Further, the writing style, with long and unnecessarily complex sentences, made this book difficult for me to read at times. Though I think the point of this book is interesting and valid, the author could have made her point with a white paper.
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73 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2023
while there were portions of this book I found repetitive and redundant, I also found in depth knowledge about addressing the many (MANY) issues of the constantly developing "big tech" sphere. I knew next to nothing about a lot of these topics before reading, so this will definitely serve as a good starting point for learning more as well as good validation for my hatred of capitalism (specifically the US brand of it).
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5 reviews50 followers
June 4, 2023
This is a must read as we're considering the impact of emerging technologies on society and human dignity. Renieris presents a strong argument for moving away from traditional conceptions of privacy and data protection towards a human rights based framework for regulating emerging technologies.
Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews

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