Suvina Singal

Profile Photo
Graduate Student
M.A. Brown University
M.A. Peking University
M.A. Sciences Po, Paris
B.A. Delhi University

Research Interests

Economic sociology; Political sociology; Technology & data; Data protection & privacy; Policy


Year of Entry: 2019

Dissertation: Pricing Privacy in the Age of Big Tech and Digital Data

Committee: Nitsan Chorev (chair), Patrick Heller, Josh Pacewicz

With the rising prominence of digital platforms and data-related controversies such as the Snowden (2013) and Cambridge Analytica (2018) revelations, there has been a growing awareness of how data collected by global and powerful tech companies can be abused. As a result, policymakers across the world have been devising ways of regulating tech firms and data, with monetary fines for privacy violations by tech companies becoming a popular policy instrument. Monetary penalties for privacy violations, however, differ significantly by regulation. This dissertation project asks: how is the monetary value of something intangible such as privacy determined?

Through data collected from archival sources and interviews, this project aims to understand how the meaning and value of privacy are decided in the context of an increasingly digitalized world and changing political economy. To do this, I ask three questions with a focus on privacy regulations and fines in the US and EU: 1) How do different regulations understand what data is, what it is worth, and how and when it should be protected? 2) What techniques do different regulations apply in calculating the monetary value of a fine and why? 3) How are these fines perceived by tech companies and what impact do they have on how companies work with user data?

Through this project, I expect to contribute to the sociology of (e)valuation and add to debates on privacy and how effective privacy/data protection policies can be formulated and enforced.