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Dark Sides of Data Transparency: Organized Immaturity After GDPR?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2023

Frederik Schade*
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark


Organized immaturity refers to the capacity of widely institutionalized sociotechnical systems to challenge qualities of human enlightenment, autonomy, and self-determination. In the context of surveillance capitalism, where these qualities are continuously put at risk, data transparency is increasingly proposed as a means of restoring human maturity by allowing individuals insight and choice vis-à-vis corporate data processing. In this article, however, I draw on research on General Data Protection Regulation–mandated data transparency practices to argue that transparency—while potentially fostering maturity—itself risks producing new forms of organized immaturity by facilitating user ignorance, manipulation, and loss of control of personal data. Considering data transparency’s relative “successes” and “failures” regarding the cultivation of maturity, I outline a set of possible remedies while arguing for a general need to develop more sophisticated ethical appreciations of transparency’s complex and potentially problematic implications for organized (im)maturity in the digital age.

© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Business Ethics

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