Property in Personal Data: Second Life of an Old Idea in the Age of Cloud Computing, Chain Informatisation, and Ambient Intelligence
24 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2010 Last revised: 15 Nov 2017
Date Written: July 16, 2010
This contribution proposes to re-examine a familiar idea of property rights in personal data in view of the recent developments in information technology and practices. It shows that, as a result of chain informatisation, cloud computing, and of ambient intelligence, the number of actors involved in processing of personal data and the relationships between them have grown and will keep growing in geometrical progression. The resulting structure of the data flow has become too complex for the existing data protection approach to grasp; namely, the paths personal data take and participation of individual actors are hard to trace and, hence, to regulate. Property, with some limitations resolved by regulation, due to its erga omnes effect and fragmentation of property rights, is capable of reflecting and controlling this complexity of relationships. This may be considered as an instance of property exercising its protective rather than market function; it aims at making sure that even after transfer of a fraction of rights, a data subject always retains the basic control over his personal information.
Keywords: property rights, data protection, comparative property law
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By Sjef Van Erp