Digital rights activist Brittany Kaiser called on governments to do more to address issues around disinformation and data privacy, and pitched a new regulatory model which would reward consumers for sharing their digital details – potentially even assisting in the battle to combat world poverty.

During a GSMA discussion hosted by Mobile World Live’s Justin Springham, Kaiser argued fresh and more dynamic legislation was needed to keep pace with emerging technologies and control malicious actions, stating tech giants had so far been “unwilling, not unable” to tackle problems.

She called for more direct engagement between governments and industry experts to develop regulations which prevent abuse of new technologies without stifling innovation.

“What I’ve seen in some countries is if legislators and regulators do not understand how certain technologies work…they decide to over regulate and therefore those technologies ended up getting built somewhere else or not built at all”.

Kaiser also highlighted a need for global data privacy protections, citing an approach being adopted by several US states as a potential template.

This involves treating digital data as a user’s property, offering financial and other rewards when they choose to share it.

In addition to allowing users to earn an income from their data, Kaiser said this approach could provide critical insights needed to fuel improvements in sectors including healthcare and education.

“Everything can function better if it is data driven,” she said, adding “those types of programmes could allow not just people who have difficulty feeding themselves and their families to cure that problem, but also solve so many other issues in society”.

She also pushed for expanded digital literacy initiatives, stating these could help consumers better understand their digital footprint, how data is used, cybersecurity best practices and how to protect their mental and physical health in a virtual environment.

Widely known for sounding the alarm about Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook user data in 2018, Kaiser subsequently co-founded the Own Your Data Foundation to promote consumer data rights.