Democratic Renewal or Vast Panopticon? Great-Power Rivalry in the Data Economy

Policy Brief No. 8

February 8, 2024

The scramble to dominate data-driven technologies is now central to global leadership. As the world’s major powers compete in the digital economy, technology platforms and the data they expropriate from their users have become critical to geopolitical advantage. Building on the tech industry, governments around the world have developed extensive surveillance systems that collect and analyze immense flows of data generated by the world’s technology users. Issues surrounding privacy, autonomy and freedom of expression are now foregrounded by data as a commodity. Enforcing human rights across a contested multipolar system will prove especially difficult.

In this policy brief, Daniel Araya writes that whether the world’s governments collaborate in the pursuit of democratic renewal or simply yield to systems of surveillance and control will largely depend on the capacities of citizens to hold their governments accountable. Eliminating the capacity of governments and commercial firms alike to manipulate, commodify and exploit human behaviour will be critical to safeguarding democracy for future generations. Araya offers recommendations for shaping regulatory systems across a changing multipolar landscape.

About the Author

Daniel Araya is a CIGI senior fellow, a senior partner with the World Legal Summit, and a consultant and an adviser with a special interest in artificial intelligence, technology policy and governance.