One of the points of the GDPR that I thought was very interesting was the idea that users needed to give consent for data use for specific purposes. This had many companies trying to reaffirm consent last year while others assumed previous consent was valid. No matter how you viewed the law, any change in the way that a subject's data was used required new consent.
We don't have a law like that in the US, and that allowed IBM to scrape images from Flickr to use in facial recognition software. This isn't dramatically different from lots of scraping that goes on from other sites, where plenty of data is aggregated, but there is certainly some private data being used for new purposes. When Netflix created a contest to help build a recommendations engine, they shared data, albeit in a way they thought was anonymous. It wasn't and Netflix stopped trying to run contests.
The article from Tim O'Reilly and Mike Loukidesi is an interesting look on privacy, rights, and consent for data use. Many of us click through overly broad rights agreements, many of which I think should be more limited by law and regulation. Unfortunately we seem to allow data to be aggregated, reused, and re-sold, often without any input or redress for the individuals to whom the data refers. The article notes that often the context of how the data is used changes, so it's not whether the data is public or private, but rather how the data is used.
I think this is a better way to examine data, and perhaps one that courts and arbitrators ought to be charged with protecting. Too many companies play fast and loose with data usage, and in an area of larger and larger data driven companies, I'm not sure I see a public interest for the rights of companies to trump those of individuals. Especially where privacy and security are concerned. Even when this might impact commerce.
I rejoice in the tremendous amount of data in the world and the opportunities it brings for many to learn more about their lives. I appreciate the opportunities I have to work with data. I think data helps companies provide better services and build more efficient processes. I also think that many companies take advantage of the data to increase their revenues without understanding that there should be some rights for the people that did not agree to, and do not want to participate in the new uses of data.