The saying “data is the new oil” is at times referenced by analysts working to assess whether our increasingly digital and data-driven world generates positive impact for our economy and society. However, this saying is imprecise. Data should not be compared to oil – it is not a scarce commodity, is nonrival, and cannot be monopolized.
With regards to privacy, the analogy further weakens. While regulations for traditional commodities like oil seek to protect individual rights to ownership of resources (an individual’s oil), the same regulations for the data-driven sector can have negative impact on the economy overall. This is because, when it comes to data, economic value creation is driven by the analysis of data in conjunction with other information. Thus, laws that quite rightfully protect individual rights to data can be at odds with innovation and economic growth.