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Contribution : "Who can regulate my data?" by Rémi Bouton

Our personal data is what we have of more precious. The one which deal with our cultural activities form obviously part of it, all the more evident that it enables to know (too) much about us.

Imagine just a moment if one day information about the music we have listened, but also the one we have switched could be crossed and compiled with all what we have read, including our non-finished novel, the press articles we have shared, the annotated or switched pages, but also our consumption of radio, television, films or video games is dreadful. No doubts that this data constitutes a unique and private print to which we do not want that anybody can access without our authorisation.

How can we frame these new practices that are multiplied by technology? Not so easy, all the more difficult that the public will be more and more inclined to storage in the cloud as well as share their data on internet and their smartphone. It is so much easier and more useful when music, films and books advices are improved or when his feelings are shared with his friends. Imagine that one day we could use selected extracts of our “cultural print” to find (finally) his soul mate on online dating sites… Who will refuse to use it?

This are worrying us collectively Big data specialist, but we are numerous to be ready for do it personally even if that means taking risk to be observed, analysed, estimated by marketing and advertising majors. Thus often we are among the first who accept to leave our data with several app or operator without knowing what they really with it, in the same way that we never clean our cookies from browsers or we don’t make any effort to number our mails. But in real life too, how many citizens are pleased to use numerous loyalty cards in store which obviously use it to hunt down their profile.

Beyond the necessary education for people, the behaviours evolution also must be dealt with. As a child in the 70s, I remember how the first surveillance camera had worried us, how they breach our privacy. Today, even if there is much more, no body notice them. Even if his words were insensitive when he said that the privacy concept had been outdated, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder wasn’t completely wrong in terms of that this concept is evolving in the same way that we can access to new uses.

Thus, like for the consumption or the shared contents, we cannot compel the network to offer us online exactly the same services and the same guarantees we have in real life. And moreover, we have to reveal some personal data when we are “consuming” culture: when a customer buy him a book, the bookshop owner has a good idea of what are his age and his socio-cultural environment. This even probably is part of his advice strategy. Go into a shop, it is necessary revealing personal data to the seller.

Beyond the privacy issue, how data can be branded? Does a cultural exception in personal data must be created? And how defined it? What will be cultural and what won’t be among the prints that we leave on networks?  Do we must consider that the purchase of a book can be recollected, but the one of a ticket train to my house where I was born can’t? A theatre ticket, yes, but a good meal in a starred restaurant, no?  The listening of a song, yes, but the seeing of a football game, no? Will it be wise seeking to isolate what would be cultural among our personal data?  Does a cultural exception must be added to the respect for privacy issue?

Obviously, some imagine that protecting our cultural personal data is needed to protect the artistic and literary propriety at the same time. The idea can reassure, and without a doubt it would make numerous Internet users understand the virtues of copyright.  But on the contrary, it is not certain that the copyright statute is a good protection for our private data. Debate is open...

Whatever, uses must be framed and for that modern forms of regulations, adapted to networks, more dynamic, more progressive, and more interactive and participative are needed to be invented.

Because before speaking about personal data, the issue that must be dealt with is the state ability to act and control the activity on networks. Can the old world oversee the new one?  Are our democracies enough prepared to oversee digital network or do they have to begin with their own revolution? Can a ligne Maginot of personal data be built at the borders between France and Europe? How can we force big internet companies, especially Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, to comply with our rules?

In the light of this, the way in which the decision about the right to be forgotten was made by the Court of Justice of the European Union last may make Google the only decision-maker and so far the only one to possess and enrich a files of all the Europeans who ask for being forgotten as well as the web pages concerned. This shows how disastrous an intent to control can prove to be. By this decision our supreme regulator has made Google the only judge and mediator, giving it the power to ban the audience of a press however free.

We no longer can be interested in personal data protection without wonder about the Snowden Case and about what it revealed: the wiretapping at a world scale and the automatic analysis of big data which breach our privacies. Then who must be the regulator? Does it must be the State that is organising this controls by itself?

Referring to their personal data, we can understand that citizens consider they have no more reason to trust their institutions, their laws, their governments than the globalised operator they are customers of which and about which they are sure that they will do their best to offer the best service possible.

Debate on personal and cultural data is open and in fist it must be the one of our sovereignty on digital networks but also the one of information and education access for people. In this way the Forum d’Avignon is an excellent initiative.

About Rémi Bouton

Rémi Bouton is a journalist.

Pioneer of pirate radios, journalist and specialist teacher of cultural industries and medias, he is particularly interested in how these industries, especially music and press, evolve regarding of new technologies and new purposes.

He worked for Oui FM, Billboard, Ecran Total, Reed Midem, Naïve, Ministère de la Culture, AOL, Real Networks, Bureau Export de la Musique, Irma, Tous Pour La Musique, Paris Mix...

He is a moderator for debates and conferences, a blogger, and teaches various professionnal trainings.

His blog :

On Twitter : @rbouton