A.4 Limits of Commercial Profiling in the European Law
- Dirk Müllmann-
Due to the extensive inclusion of networked technologies into our daily routines it is possible to acquire a comprehensive picture of our activities, attitudes and interests by processing usage data. Users’ information, which is often very sensitive, is collected and intertwined with other personal details in profiles, which allow the analysis of the collected data, the deduction of metadata and the monetarization of both.
Profiles can hold whole daily routines, movement- or activity- profiles with the result that almost every operation in the real world finds a virtual equivalent. This situation can create an enormous “surveillance pressure” under which citizens might refrain from actions deviating from those of the majority population as they fear possible negative impacts of being different. Furthermore, such algorithm-based analysis of behavior can lead to a determination of human conduct. The algorithmic method, specifically, assumes that a person doesn’t change and will always act in the same way. Based on this premise the algorithm won’t recommend action alternatives which don’t conform to former decisions. This might promote self-fulfilling prophecies.
The research area A.4 deals with the attempt to reach a legal balance between the economic chances of commercial profiling and its dangers for democratic societies and citizens’ freedom rights. Therefore, it strives to answer two questions: Is there a qualitative or quantitative limit for the acquisition, compilation, analysis and use of personal data in commercially used profiles? And if so, is it possible to reproduce this limit in a practically manageable system to ensure the protection of fundamental rights and to provide legal security for companies?