Seeking a market-based solution to the problem of a person’s
unjustified inaccessibility to their private information.
some discussions between Quisani,
ostensibly a former student of the first
author, and the authors.
For brevity, items of information are
called infons. 11 An infon is tangible if it
has a material embodiment, for example, written down on a piece of paper or
recorded in some database. The same
infon (as an abstract item of information) may have distinct material embodiments. Herein we restrict attention to infons that are tangible.
CALL AN ITEM of your per- sonal information inversely private if some party has ac- cess to it but you do not. The provenance of your inversely private information can be totally
legitimate. Your interactions with various institutions—employers, municipalities, financial institutions, health
providers, police, toll roads operators,
grocery chains, and so forth—create
numerous items of personal information, for example, shopping receipts
and refilled prescriptions. Due to
progress in technology, institutions
have become much better than you
in recording data. As a result, shared
data decays into inversely private.
More inversely private information is
produced when institutions analyze
your private data.
Your inversely private information,
whether collected or derived, allows
institutions to serve you better. But access to that information—especially
if it were presented to you in a convenient form—would do you much
good. It would allow you to correct
possible errors in the data, to have a
better idea of your health status and
your credit rating, and to identify
ways to improve your productivity and
quality of life.
In some cases, the inaccessibility
of your inversely private information
can be justified by the necessity to pro-
tect the privacy of other people and to
protect the legitimate interests of in-
stitutions. We argue that there are nu-
merous scenarios where the chances
to hurt other parties by providing you
access to your data are negligible. The
inaccessibility of your inversely private
information in such safe scenarios is
the inverse privacy problem. A good so-
lution to the problem should not only
provide you accessibility to your in-
versely private information but should
also make that access convenient.
We analyze the root causes of the
inverse privacy problem and discuss a
market-based solution for it. We concentrate here on the big picture, leaving many finer points for later analysis.
Some explanations are more natural
in a dialogue, and so we include here