Nicolo Zingales, ‘The Rise of “Infomediaries” in Support of Individual Autonomy: A Matter of Trust and (Joint) Responsibility’

ABSTRACT
This paper is part of a larger project aimed to reflect on the opportunities and challenges associated with the reliance on these third parties for the exercise of data protection rights, in particular focusing here on their role in countering the negative effects of one increasingly prevalent online practice: price and content personalization. While the rise of infomediaries is likely to have a positive impact on other aspects of individual autonomy as well, this particular issue vividly illustrates the rich potential for consumer empowerment offered by these entities in overcoming the loss of agency and restoring meaningful transparency. The structure of the paper is as follows: section II defines the concept of personalization, reviewing how it gains salience with modern technology, and discuss the need for a more prominent role for data protection enforcement in order to address the existing power imbalance between consumers and producers. Section III picks up from the disillusion with the existing regime and illustrates how several changes brought by the GDPR pave the road for the emergence of a new class of intermediaries (the infomediaries) specialized in supporting consumers in enforcing their data protection rights, particularly vis a vis large producers. Section IV introduces the first manifestation of this emerging class, Personal Information Management Services, explaining their business model and technical features, and attempts to forecast future developments in this market. Subsequently, section V analyzes the possible legal treatment of these entities under data protection law, raising questions of trust and responsibility in a future in which they become ubiquitous and turn around the prevailing business model on the Internet. Section VI concludes with a critical view at the implications of the turn to this model for data protection enforcement.

Zingales, Nicolo, The Rise of ‘Infomediaries’ in Support of Individual Autonomy: A Matter of Trust and (Joint) Responsibility (May 30, 2019).

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