The Role of Individuals in the Data Ecosystem: Current debates and considerations for individual data protection and data rights in the U.S.


Kaitlin Asrow, Fintech Policy Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

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June 3, 2020

We are living in a time of immense technological change, driven in part by our ability to capture data, convert it into new information, and use that information to inform decision-making, automate activities, and develop new products and services. Unfortunately, information can also be used to manipulate actions, discriminate on improper grounds, and open once intimate spaces up to unforeseen dissection and analysis. A growing range of stakeholders and policymakers are acknowledging the need to more proactively balance the benefits and risks of this data explosion, and there are robust conversations occurring across the country around the potential for improving and expanding U.S. data governance regimes.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (SF Fed) has undertaken research, policy analysis, and stakeholder outreach throughout 2019 to help provide a nuanced and neutral perspective on these issues, with a particular focus on the potential roles of individuals themselves in the data ecosystem.

This publication examines the complexity of data as a policy area and offers data governance concepts for consideration and further refinement. Part 1 unpacks and analyzes many of the key debates and challenges that have been raised relative to individuals’ role in the data ecosystem. Part 2 offers a data governance framework for consideration that provides for both individual data protection and individual agency through active data rights.

This report, and the concepts within it, are intended to stimulate conversation and provide a forward-leaning set of ideas to be vetted and refined collectively. The SF Fed looks forward to continuing to explore the potential for broad data governance in the United States.

Download Executive Summary (pdf, 2.94 mb)