Since corporations can claim trade secrets, [Jennifer Lyn] Morone decided to resist pervasive data capture by incorporating herself, so that the company, JLM Inc., contains the intellectual property and activities of the human Morone. If a corporation can be a person, perhaps a person could be a corporation and so protect their data! The articles of incorporation enable Morone’s data to qualify as intellectual property and thus purport to offer protections from the data marketplace. The human Morone’s privacy is possible because it is the product and trade secret of the company, JLM Inc., which is incorporated in the state of Delaware. With its own Court of Chancery that hears cases involving corporate law, Delaware’s legal structure is favorable to business. The state also does not collect corporate taxes from those that do business outside the state or tax “intangible assets” — like data. […]
As JLM Inc., Morone has an obligation to refuse the terms and agreements that permit apps and websites to share data with their parent tech companies, alongside third and fourth parties. She must protect the secret formula of who she is so that she can sell it, making it a challenge for her to participate in many of the interactive information streams common to the 21st century. She can’t use apps, websites with cookies, or most search engines. They track her and collect data about her. That data is the property of JLM Inc. and so she must not engage these services. The problem with maintaining the marketplace as the point of reference for data governance is how it reinforces exploitative practices that don’t have clear, long-term safeguards for participants. Morone’s experience shows that the corporation doesn’t provide a solution to the extractive practices of these apps, platforms, and sites for a human who wants to live, work, or socialize today.
Everything about this story is deeply sad.