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6 posts about data ownership that are well worth reading

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

The month of November 2020 will most likely be remembered for *other things* but something happened in California that may have an equally significant impact on American society.

6 posts about data ownership that are well worth reading

During the recent U.S. election, citizens of the Golden State were asked to vote on Proposition 24, an initiative which proposed an update to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The proposal passed (with 56% of the vote) and paved the way for the establishment of the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) which contains key extensions to the CCPA (which we described in our LinkedIn post).

The result now sets Californians on a path to implementing GDPR-like data protection regulations. It is also significant in that other US states (and potentially Federal lawmakers) may use the CPRA as template upon which to build similar state-level or national regulations.

But new regulations are just the starting point. The really interesting debates about HOW these and other protections will work in the World's largest free economy are just getting started.

To help, we've created this compact reading list to help everyday people, small businesses, and nonprofits develop a better sense of the data ownership landscape in order to contribute to conversations about data ownership.

1. What Does It Mean to “Own Your Data”?

Who wrote it:

Natalie Smolenski - Head of Business Development at Hyland Credentials / Anthropologist

Why it's a good read:

At some point, any intelligent discussion about data ownership needs to get a bit...philosophical. This post is definitely the most challenging in our list, but for those that make the effort to follow the thread it will provide key insights into the notion of "inalienable properties".

Key quote:

"You do not ask some authority for permission to take your body with you wherever you go, or to use it as you will. Likewise, your data is yours to take with you wherever you go, and to use how you choose." Source: Natalie Smolenski in Medium

2. We need to own our data as a human right—and be compensated for it

Who wrote it:

Will.I.AM - musician, producer, director, and advocate for education and technology.

Why it's a good read:

It's not surprising that a musician and tech entrepreneur would have so much to contribute to the conversation about data ownership. These artists have been at the front lines of digital ownership debates since the days of unrestricted MP3 downloading and torrenting. While it leans towards the line of thinking that holds that data can should be treated like physical property (a mistake, in our view), this post provides an well-considered and eloquent overview of data and it's meaning to everyday people. We particularly like it's grasp of the true "interconnected" nature of data.

Key quote:

"Today, my gadgets may count my steps, but they aren’t seeing the big picture: what I ate, how I felt, what my blood pressure is. New services, built from the point of view of the consumer, will benefit me by sharing and interconnecting my own data, rather than selling it on. When more trust is established, my personal “agent” or “assistant” should merge relevant things together that are currently just disconnected data points. Tomorrow’s entrepreneurs will create virtuous companies that honour people’s data. They will make use of my data with my consent but I will always own it." Source: Will.I.Am in The Economist

3. Why data ownership is the wrong approach to protecting privacy

Who wrote it

Cameron F. Kerry - Writer, speaker, and thought leader on privacy, security and tech policy

Brookings Institute and Medialab. Former General Counsel at US Commerce Department

John B. Morris, Jr. - Nonresident Fellow at The Brookings Institution focusing on internet and communications policy issues, including privacy, cybersecurity, and intermediary issues.

Why it's a good read

The data we produce is weird. It's not physical like most property. It's not creative like intellectual property. It's not even that valuable on an individual basis. But it is hugely valuable to the control of our privacy and personal identity. This post is interesting because it argues that data is not like other commodities, and as such, it cannot be easily managed within legal frameworks like property law or copyright law.

Key quote:

"Treating personal information as property to be licensed or sold may induce people to trade away their privacy rights for very little value while injecting enormous friction into free flow of information. The better way to strengthen privacy is to ensure that individual privacy interests are respected as personal information flows to desirable uses, not to reduce personal data to a commodity." Source: Cameron F. Kerry and John B. Morris, Jr. in Brookings Institute website.

4. Your online privacy depends as much on your friends’ data habits as your own

Who wrote it

Vincent Mitchell - professor of Marketing at The University of Sydney Business School.

Andrew Stephen - L'Oréal Professor of Marketing & Associate Dean of Research

at University of Oxford.

Bernadette Kamleitner - professor of Marketing and head of the Institute for Marketing and Consumer research at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.

Why it's a good read

The debate over data ownership needs to take into account not only the challenges posed by its unrestricted replication within digital service provider environments, but by our digital contacts. While it's not necessarily fun to consider, the people we interact with via personal and professional social media platforms also pose a risk to data ownership. Basically, every share button is a little photocopier that leaves you with no control once it's been engaged. It's this issue (and how it might be resolved) that this post explores in more detail.

Key quote

"Then the data harvesting machinery begins its work – often in perpetuity, and without us knowing or understanding what will be done with it. More importantly, our friends never agreed to us giving away their data. And we have a lot of friends’ data to harvest." Source: Vincent Mitchell, Andrew Stephen, and Bernadette Kamleitner in The

5. How To Get Ahead Of The Next Pandemic And Retain Data Privacy

Who wrote it

Dan DeMers - co-founder of Data Fabric pioneer Cinchy and President of the Data Collaboration Alliance.

Why it's a good read

As our Twitter followers already know, the COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced some concerning issues with regards to the resiliency and agility of healthcare technology. Outdated data management regimes and cumbersome approaches are holding back the digital service innovation the World so desperately needs. This post defines some of the root causes of this problem and describes how new approaches to data management provide genuine should we all have to go through this again in the future.

Sample quote

"Mending fragmented data by using outdated technologies like data sharing and data integration has eaten up so much time, money and IT resources that it’s almost impossible for healthcare agencies to deliver the solutions demanded in times of crisis." Dan DeMers, in Forbes

6. The Path to Self-Sovereign Identity

Who wrote it:

Christopher Allen - principal at Life with Alacrity, a blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools.

Why it's a good read:

Any conversation about data ownership and data privacy will eventually turn to the notion of identity. Who are we? It's a tough thing to pin down at the best of times, but throw a digital doppelganger into the mix and this becomes very, very tricky indeed. So full marks to Christopher Allen who wrote this excellent overview piece on the evolution of thinking about identity and the rise of what he refers to as "self-sovereign identity". A tip of the hat goes to our first writer Natalie Smolenski who linked to this post.

Key quote:

"As the digital world becomes increasingly important to the physical world, it also presents a new opportunity; it offers the possibility of redefining modern concepts of identity. It might allow us to place identity back under our control — once more reuniting identity with the ineffable “I”." Source: Christopher Allen in Life With Alacrity

What did we miss?

The Data Collaboration Alliance is dedicated to developing new technologies, standards, and regulations that support new models and frameworks for data ownership. Please feel free to reference anything we missed in the comments below 👇

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