Who Owns Our Data?

7 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2013

Date Written: August 2013


The layman's answer to the question posted in the title to this paper lies in the question itself. The common understanding of people when they talk about information about themselves is that it is indeed "theirs". Until relatively recently, the law has been content to remain agnostic on the subject. The Common Law in general and English Courts in particular have traditionally avoided philosophical debates about the nature of things, preferring to develop concepts and principles from the results of cases decided on specific facts and circumstances. This approach has been acceptable while we have been winding our way gently up the foothills of the Information Age, but now that we see the towering peak of Big Data standing before us, covered by the ubiquitous Cloud, it is necessary to make a critical examination of some of the basic assumptions which we have hitherto carried with us about the way in which the law should treat rights over personal information. This paper will argue that the correct approach which the law should adopt is a proprietary one. That is to say that the protection of the economic value inherent in personal information should be grounded in property rights acknowledged by the law.

Keywords: data protection, privacy, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Rees, Christopher, Who Owns Our Data? (August 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2310662 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2310662

Christopher Rees (Contact Author)

Taylor Wessing LLP ( email )

5 New Street Square
London, EC4A 3TW
United Kingdom

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