No One Owns Data

Paper by Lothar Determann: “Businesses, policy makers, and scholars are calling for property rights in data. They currently focus particularly on the vast amounts of data generated by connected cars, industrial machines, artificial intelligence, toys and other devices on the Internet of Things (IoT). This data is personal to numerous parties who are associated with a connected device, for example, the driver of a connected car, its owner and passengers, as well as other traffic participants. Manufacturers, dealers, independent providers of auto parts and services, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies and many others are also interested in this data. Various parties are actively staking their claims to data on the Internet of Things, as they are mining data, the fuel of the digital economy.

Stakeholders in digital markets often frame claims, negotiations and controversies regarding data access as one of ownership. Businesses regularly assert and demand that they own data. Individual data subjects also assume that they own data about themselves. Policy makers and scholars focus on how to redistribute ownership rights to data. Yet, upon closer review, it is very questionable whether data is—or should be—subject to any property rights. This article unambiguously answers the question in the negative, both with respect to existing law and future lawmaking, in the United States as in the European Union, jurisdictions with notably divergent attitudes to privacy, property and individual freedoms….

The article begins with a brief review of the current landscape of the Internet of Things notes explosive growth of data pools generated by connected devices, artificial intelligence, big data analytics tools and other information technologies. Part 1 lays the foundation for examining concrete current legal and policy challenges in the remainder of the article. Part 2 supplies conceptual differentiation and definitions with respect to “data” and “information” as the subject of rights and interests. Distinctions and definitional clarity serve as the basis for examining the purposes and reach of existing property laws in Part 3, including real property, personal property and intellectual property laws. Part 4 analyzes the effect of data-related laws that do not grant property rights. Part 5 examines how the interests of the various stakeholders are protected or impaired by the current framework of data-related laws to identify potential gaps that could warrant additional property rights. Part 6 examines policy considerations for and against property rights in data. Part 7 concludes that no one owns data and no one should own data….(More)”.