Data has been hailed by some as “the new oil,” an analogy that captures the excitement and high expectations surrounding the data-driven economy. The success of the world’s most valuable companies (Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft) is now underpinned by a sophisticated capacity to collect, organize, control and commercialize stores of data and intellectual property. Big data and its application in artificial intelligence, for example, promises to transform the way we live and work — and will generate considerable wealth in the process. But data’s transformative nature also raises important questions around how the benefits are shared, privacy, public security, openness and democracy, and the institutions that will govern the data revolution. The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has exposed the vulnerability of democracies to data strategies deployed on platforms such as Facebook to influence the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential race. Any national data strategy will have to address both the economic and non-economic dimensions of harnessing big data. Balances will have to be struck between numerous goals. The essays in this collection, first published online in spring 2018, by leading scholars and practitioners, are grouped into five blocks: the rationale of a data strategy; the role of a data strategy for Canadian industries; balancing privacy and commercial values; domestic policy for data governance; and international policy considerations. An epilogue concludes with some key questions to consider around data governance in the digital age.

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