Over the last couple of weeks, the New York Times reported Facebook had shared private data of users, including personal messages in some cases, with 150 partners and platforms, violating its own privacy policy. These folks cannot keep safe the data that they sell to others. Two weeks ago, Facebook said “Sorry” when photographs of some 7 million users were hacked. Sorry does not cut it.

Taking our digital sovereignty seriously might help. We all should have control over our own private data – email, texts, health records, banking records, travel records, photographs, videos, web searches, and any other records. They should be ours to broker to others – not under the control of social media and technology giants, nor financial institutions, nor other intermediaries. Our private conversations with others are just that – private conversations. Over these personal treasure troves, we have sovereignty.

One of the most misunderstood words in world, “sovereignty” was first ascribed to the monarch. It was the control he or she had over territory, including kingdoms and distant empires and faiths. Such sovereignty was based on Divine Right. Louis XIV once famously quipped “C’état, c’est moi” (the State, it is me). In the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, Enlightenment philosophers provided new ideas that extended this sovereignty to newly forming States, rather than to one king or queen. States, whether they be city-states, principalities, or the Holy See, had a number of rights – the right to raise an army and collect taxes, as examples, but they were coupled with an obligation to provide good governance and to ensure security and stability.

With new challenges in the late twentieth century, like national liberation groups, international terrorists, the Internet and 24/7 global cable access, the State began to disaggregate – a “hollowing out.” Non-State actors filled the void left by a retreating State. Individuals began to assert more power, through human rights complaint mechanisms and other litigation against States. Non-governmental organizations began to undertake the work of States and international organizations. Transnational corporations grew exponentially during this time, with government activities being privatized. And with that privatization, the new technology companies have created and profited from the Data Industrial Complex: The selling of our data for private economic gain, to sway our political views, and to entice us to consume. And without scruple. They make money on our data and sell it to the highest bidder, including foreign agents who would do us harm by manipulating our opinions and vote.

Facebook Data A newspaper featuring a full-page advertisement, taken out by Mark Zuckerberg, the chairman and chief executive officer of Facebook to apologize for the large-scale leak of personal data from the social network, lies on a table in Ripon, England, March 25, 2018. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images

These technology giants cannot even be trusted to keep safe and confidential the data we gift them. Google was hacked. The company had to shut down its Google+ after a security bug dating from 2015 allowed third-party developers to access user profile data. When Google fixed it in March, the company told the world in October. In November, Marriott was hacked, exposing 500 million guests’ passport information, phone numbers, birth dates and travel schedules. Chinese intelligence agencies are believed to be behind the attack.

We need a filter and trusted partner in the transactions of our lives. With these scandals exposed, and the new drive to create federally mandated privacy regulations, it is a good time to define our digital sovereignty. As we carve out the right to choose what information we share with the world, we must make sure the social media corporations that profit from information should not dominate the resulting legislation.

If the government will not regulate big technology companies, the industry will do it for them. Self-regulating organizations will increase in importance, setting industry standards. More importantly, consumers will get educated about what all this means. They should be able to choose to opt in, rather than go through complicated URLs to opt out.

In this era of digital sovereignty, blockchain and other decentralized technologies can ensure trust with the parties with whom you are doing business. Platforms will provide not just smart contracting, but banking, consumer protection, dispute resolution, and insurance solutions. Digital fiduciaries will arrive to the save the world, or at least protect some of us from the vagaries of telemarketing, targeting ads online, and Artificial Intelligence.

With digital sovereignty, the individual can again exercise power. We should be able to safely and smartly participate in the modern world without giving up our civil and political, social, cultural, and economic rights. At least we can try to prevent transnational corporations from harvesting our data.

James Cooper is a professor of law and director of the  International Legal Studies Program at California Western School of Law in San Diego, and cofounder of the One World Blockchain Alliance and the Digital Sovereignty Collective.