We gave up our privacy to fight COVID-19, can we get it back?

People You May Know, an FT Film written by James Graham on the challenges presented by big data and algorithms, was released today in collaboration with Sonia Friedman Productions and supported by Luminate.

The 18 minute film, directed by the FT's Juliet Riddell, investigates how the response to COVID-19 has enabled the intrusion of the data state into people’s lives and what it might mean for us all. It revolves around the interrogation of a junior barrister, played by Lydia West (star of the recent Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin), by Arthur Darvill (of Dr Who and Broadchurch), an interrogator from a private software firm, about her behaviour during lockdown, as monitored by her internet-connected devices. It is available to watch on and the FT’s YouTube channel.

As Martin Tisné, Managing Director at Luminate said, "The collective nature of data means people are more impacted by other people’s data than by data about them. As the film perfectly demonstrates: the energy readings on my thermostat, the video feed from my doorbell, even my satnav routes - these impact all of us.  In the era of machine learning, individual denial of consent is close to meaningless. The Covid pandemic has accelerated this datafication. Our societies urgently need collective as well as individual data rights to chart a new course for the digital future we want to see."

Learn more about Luminate's perspective on collective and individual data rights in The Data Delusion: Protecting Individual Data is Not Enough When the Harm is Collective, a paper published last year by Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and edited by their International Policy Director Marietje Schaake. In it, Tisné argued that privacy concerns surrounding COVID-19 brought to the surface a number of systemic mismatches between individual privacy law and the value of collective data processing.