Reclaiming Human Rights at the Dawn of the Metaverse
240 pp., 6 x 9 in, 9 b&w illus.
- Published: February 7, 2023
Why laws focused on data cannot effectively protect people—and how an approach centered on human rights offers the best hope for preserving human dignity and autonomy in a cyberphysical world.
Ever-pervasive technology poses a clear and present danger to human dignity and autonomy, as many have pointed out. And yet, for the past fifty years, we have been so busy protecting data that we have failed to protect people. In Beyond Data, Elizabeth Renieris argues that laws focused on data protection, data privacy, data security and data ownership have unintentionally failed to protect core human values, including privacy. And, as our collective obsession with data has grown, we have, to our peril, lost sight of what's truly at stake in relation to technological development—our dignity and autonomy as people.
Far from being inevitable, our fixation on data has been codified through decades of flawed policy. Renieris provides a comprehensive history of how both laws and corporate policies enacted in the name of data privacy have been fundamentally incapable of protecting humans. Her research identifies the inherent deficiency of making data a rallying point in itself—data is not an objective truth, and what's more, its “entirely contextual and dynamic” status makes it an unstable foundation for organizing. In proposing a human rights–based framework that would center human dignity and autonomy rather than technological abstractions, Renieris delivers a clear-eyed and radically imaginative vision of the future.
At once a thorough application of legal theory to technology and a rousing call to action, Beyond Data boldly reaffirms the value of human dignity and autonomy amid widespread disregard by private enterprise at the dawn of the metaverse.
“Beyond Data masterfully tracks how we became so vulnerable, where things went wrong, and how to recover. This book is a welcome corrective to the idea that all we need is control over our information.”
Woodrow Hartzog, coauthor of Breached! Why Data Security Law Fails and How to Improve It
“Beyond Data documents policymakers' abject failure to prevent technology from undermining human autonomy for profit, even when core values like democracy and public health are imperiled.”
Roger McNamee, author of the New York Times bestseller Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe
“Renieris illuminates profound and urgent privacy challenges that we must confront in a post-digital world and sketches out an intriguing human rights–based solution.”
Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law and Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University
“Renieris has written a groundbreaking and timely book. Beyond Data makes the case for how human rights standards are more important than ever if technology is going to serve humanity—not the other way around.”
Rebecca MacKinnon, author of Consent of the Networked
“Accessible, insightful, and well-written, this book is a must-read for anyone concerned about our collective post-digital futures.”
Sushma Raman, Executive Director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; coauthor, The Coming Good Society: Why New Realities Demand New Rights
“Beyond Data carefully details how the singular focus on data—not people—directed society toward surveillance capitalism and crucially charts the way forward through data governance rooted in human rights.”
Chris Gilliard, Just Tech Fellow, Social Science Research Council