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D7.2: Descriptive analysis and inventory of profiling practices

5. Fields of application  Foreword


6. Issues for further clarification

6.1 Commodification of information 


One of the most obvious effects of datamining is the emerging trend of viewing information as a product in itself, as data and profiles often have a high market value. Companies that collect valuable data are in a position to become information brokers by reselling the data collected as reports – for instance, reports on television viewing habits. It seems to be the case that, as the process of knowledge discovery (or data mining in a broad sense) is highly automated it becomes more and more dependent on computer technology. As the input to this process is formed by a collection of data objects organised in a database, while the output will be “pieces of knowledge dug from the database”, the temptation to see knowledge as a commodity grows. This also impacts ideas on the protection of (informational) privacy. Interestingly, in the legal field we see different approaches as regards these issues: while the US seems to allow commodification to rule issues of privacy, Europe seems to rather think in terms of personality rights and liberties.


The commodification of information raises many questions. For one, it challenges traditional ideas about property, ownership, privacy and security:

  1. other than tangible stuff, information can be at many places at the same time; 

  2. limiting access to information can be against the public interest; 

  3. buying and selling information can be against the private interest of a particular person, ànd against privacy as a public interest; 

  4. informational self-determination may be limited due to difficulties to trace the data-controller 


In upcoming deliverables the legal and ethical issues of such commodification will have to be adressed, as this concerns the legal and economic infrastructure of our information society. This infrastructure will, in the end, decide who has access to which information and who can or can not employ the knowledge that is generated. 


6.2 Privacy, security, trust, usability and equality 


As indicated from the start, this deliverable does not focus extensively on privacy, security, trust, usability and equality. It aims to deliver a concise analysis of profiling as technique, technology and practice, with special attention to the effects it produces both intentionally and unintentionally. In later deliverables the issues of privacy and security; trust and usability; and equality, will be explored.  


  1. D7.3 will focus on the role of profiling in Ambient intelligence with more explicit attention for privacy and security and the legal framework around profiling.  

  2. D7.4 will focus on the implications of profiling on democracy and rule of law, integrating issues such as privacy and security but also posing the question: who is profiling who. This touches on issues such as equality (discrimination; dissymmetry) and transparency (invisibility of data processing; transparency of those that are profiled). The legal framework will be discussed in respect of building in checks and balances: facilitating opacity of individuals and transparency of data controllers/users. 

  3. D7.5 will allow researchers from different institutes and disciplines to integrate their knowledge at the academic level, aiming at a high-profile publication on the subject, including technological, legal and social perspectives. 

  4. D7.7 will shift the focus to profiling of offline behaviour and substance by means of rf-id and biometrics in AmI environments. 



5. Fields of application  fidis-wp7-del7.2.profiling_practices_03.sxw  Appendix
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