The Constituents of the Public Sphere: From Res Publica to Data Dependent Utilities

Beril Boz
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13:00 - 14:00
Institute for Ethics in AI (Faculty of Philosophy)
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Lectures and seminars
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Abstract: In this paper, I initially investigate what the constituents of the public sphere should be and offer a novel formula which I refer as ‘public functions’.

I depict these functions by examining Roman Republic’s res publica and comparing it with today’s ‘data dependent utilities’ (eg Facebook, Google, and Twitter).

I then argue that the public sphere does not only consist of the states but expands beyond that and includes other entities or services that hold these ‘public functions’. In this regard, this formula helps us to test whether an entity or a service belongs in the public sphere.

Accordingly, I demonstrate how the ‘data dependent utilities’ hold these public functions, thus belong in the public sphere. Once I place these utilities in the public sphere, I argue that the existing legal frameworks especially regarding data protection (namely the GDPR) and governance need to acknowledge this and treat data dependent utilities accordingly (in other words extend public law frameworks to these).