As the Fair Data Society puts it, we are laborers in the data economy. Our personal data — basically, the digital blueprint of our lives — gets collected by platforms we interact with, most often in a non-transparent way. At best, it is used to improve our user experience. At worst, our privacy gets breached, monetized and even weaponized against us.

It all started with the emergence and growth of the user-generated web, as seemingly free social media networks, search engines and companies saw a new opportunity of profiting and went into the business of gathering, storing, analyzing and selling user data. By 2022, the data market had grown immensely. According to Statista, a total of 64.2 zettabytes of data had been created, consumed and put online worldwide by 2020. By 2025, this number is expected to exceed 180 zettabytes.

Talking about the evolution of data sovereignty in a profit-driven climate, professor Sabina Leonelli said:

“Individual agency in the data economy has shrunk, with a few organizations dominating the conditions under which information can be exchanged and used, to the detriment of individual rights and collective action.”

Indeed, over three-quarters of the global search market is under the control of the Google search engine and over 3.6 billion individual users across four social media platforms owned by Meta.

Course for data sovereignty

Big Tech companies recognized the pressure and increasing regulatory demand, so in 2018, the Data Transfer Project was born. Six contributors — Google, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, Facebook and SmugMug —…

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