'Ownership' of Customer (Big) Data in the European Union: Quasi-Property as Comparative Solution?

Journal of Internet Law, Vol. 20, n.5, November 2016

37 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2017

See all articles by Gianclaudio Malgieri

Gianclaudio Malgieri

Universiteit Leiden, eLaw; Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 20, 2016


The aim of this paper is to move steps towards the determination of “ownership” of Big Data related to consumers and to understand whether allocating economic rights on personal data to consumers is efficient and consistent with human rights of individuals; and whether it will strengthen the level of legibility, agency and negotiability of human-data interactions.

In particular, there is an uncertain “grey area” in which determining “default entitlement” of data is particularly challenging: it is the case of the intellectual output of algorithms on individuals’ personality, i.e. all information created by processing raw data (data received, observed, inferred or predicted) through data mining and in general all customer data which are just forecasted, statistically predicted, obtained by the original combination of probabilistic data, meta-data and raw data related to customers.

To find a solution to this grey area “default entitlement” issue, several sub-questions need to be addressed. Firstly, it is necessary to analyze balancing rules in the EU and US legal systems, both under a constitutional point of view and under literal interpretation of existing provisions.

A second sub-question concerns the analysis of the legal and socio-economical feasibility of a form of shared ownership on immaterial goods and in particular of quasi-property on personal data.

Finally, in order to clarify roles and ownership in the “grey area” zone it will be necessary to re-categorize personal data on the basis of the intellectual activity that businesses – through algorithms and Big Data - spend to acquire such data and of the opposite degree of relationship between data and individuals.

A new shared multi-stakeholder management for personal data and new forms of “(intellectual) ownership” on data would be an original solution to the problem of privacy of consumers in the world of behavioral profiling and pervasive direct marketing. In particular, a clear and well-defined shared “quasi-property” on personal data would lead to a stronger level of legibility, agency and negotiability for individuals in the so called “Human-Data Interactions”, with very important advantages and protections for consumers in the Information Society world.

Keywords: data ownership, quasi property, data protection, privacy, Big Data

Suggested Citation

Malgieri, Gianclaudio, 'Ownership' of Customer (Big) Data in the European Union: Quasi-Property as Comparative Solution? (November 20, 2016). Journal of Internet Law, Vol. 20, n.5, November 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2916079

Gianclaudio Malgieri (Contact Author)

Universiteit Leiden, eLaw ( email )

Steenschuur 25
Leiden, 2311

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) - Faculty of Law ( email )


HOME PAGE: http://www.vub.ac.be/LSTS/members/malgieri/

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