In important ways, our democracies grew up around a scaffolding of data. Governments collected census information, and analysed it to improve public services, and made the data available to us all. Health researchers organised large studies and shared the results. Credit card companies and marketing specialists also generated data – to be bought, sold, and made useful for private advertisers.
Now social media firms suck up and profit from all that data. We have to make these firms contribute to public archives such as libraries, and help citizens express themselves through data donations to the charities and causes they wish to support.
The article appears as part of The Guardian’s 21 Brilliant Ideas to Remake the World series.