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Property in Personal Data: Second Life of an Old Idea in the Age of Cloud Computing, Chain Informatisation, and Ambient Intelligence

Abstract

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

  • Cloud Computing
  • Personal Data
  • Data Protection
  • Data Subject
  • Ambient Intelligence

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See, e.g., Westin, A.F. Privacy and Freedom. London, Sydney, Toronto: the Bodley Head, 1967.

  2. 2.

    Despite the lack of agreement on the content of those goals.

  3. 3.

    For a detailed outline and analysis of the US debate on propertisation of personal data see Purtova, N. “Property Rights in Personal Data: Learning from the American Discourse.” Computer Law & Security Report 25, 6 (2009).

  4. 4.

    E.g., Westin, Privacy and Freedom., 7; Solove, D.J. “Privacy and Power: Computer Databases and Metaphors for Information Privacy.” Stanford Law Review 53 (2001): 1428

  5. 5.

    Solove, “Privacy and Power: Computer Databases and Metaphors for Information Privacy.”, 1446 (although he does not develop the natural law argument further); Vera Bergelson, “It’s Personal, but Is It Mine? Toward Property Rights in Personal Information,” UC Davis Law Review 37 (2003): 430; according to Radin, there is a certain inherent connection between an individual and data pertaining to him. This connection arguably justifies property status of personal data. Margaret Jane Radin. “Property and Personhood.” Stanford Law Review 34, 5 (1982): 959.

  6. 6.

    “Property talk is just how we talk about matters of great importance” (Lawrence Lessig, “Privacy as Property.” Social Research: An International Quarterly of Social Sciences 69, 1 (2002): 247); “If you could get people (in America, at this point in history) to see certain resource as property, then you are 90% to your protective goal.” (Lessig, “Privacy as Property.”)

  7. 7.

    Among few European authors commenting on the issue of property in personal data see J.E.J. Prins, “When Personal Data, Behavior and Virtual Identities Become a Commodity: Would a Property Rights Approach Matter?,” SCRIPT-ed 3, 4 (2006).; on the possibility of private law solutions in data protection, including propertisation, see Colette Cuijpers, “A Private Law Approach to Privacy: Mandatory Law Obliged?,” SCRIPT-ed 4, 4 (2007).; for a dignitarian argument against market solutions in data protection see Yves Poullet, “Data Protection Legislation: What Is at Stake for Our Society and Democracy?”, Computer Law & Security Report 25 (2009).

  8. 8.

    Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1999).; Lawrence Lessig, “The Law of the Horse: What Cyberlaw Might Teach,” Harvard Law Review 113 (1999).; Lessig, “Privacy as Property.”

  9. 9.

    Marc Rotenberg, “Fair Information Practices and the Architecture of Privacy (What Larry Doesn’t Get),” Stan. Tech. L. Rev. 1 (2001).

  10. 10.

    Paul M. Schwartz, “Property, Privacy, and Personal Data,” Harv. L. Rev. 117, 7 (2004).

  11. 11.

    For an overview of the evolution of data protection up to the 1990s see Viktor Mayer-Schőnberger, Data Protection in Europe, In Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape, edited by P.E. Agre and M. Rotenberg (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1997).

  12. 12.

    Ibid. 225

  13. 13.

    Ibid. 227–228

  14. 14.

    Ibid. 229–232

  15. 15.

    Ibid. 232–235

  16. 16.

    “De Burger in De Ketens: Verslag Van Nationale Ombudsman over 2008,” (Dutch National Ombudsman, 2008).

  17. 17.

    Paul Michael Garret, “Social Work’s ‘Electronic Turn’: Notes on the Deployment of Information and Communication Technologies in Social Work with Children and Families,” Critical Social Policy 25, 4 (2005). 536

  18. 18.

    Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 2003: 53-4, cited in Ibid.538, emphases added by Garrett.

  19. 19.

    “De Burger in De Ketens: Verslag Van Nationale Ombudsman over 2008.”

  20. 20.

    For more details on cloud computing see, e.g. Richard Martin, J., Hoover, Nicholas, “Guide to Cloud Computing,” In Information Week: the business value of technology (2008).

  21. 21.

    Vendors of cloud computing services include Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine, Salesforce, etc.

  22. 22.

    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, “The Privacy Implications of Cloud Computing”.

  23. 23.

    The personal data related concerns resulting from cloud computing will be addresses in more detail further on in this Chapter. Meanwhile, see e.g. Ann Cavoukian, “Privacy in the Clouds - a White Paper on Privacy and Digital Identity: Implications for the Internet ” (Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, 2008).; Robert Gellman, Privacy in the Clouds: Risks to Privacy and Confidentiality from Cloud Computing, (The World Privacy Forum, 2009).

  24. 24.

    Paul De Hert, “A Right to Identity to Face the Internet of Things?.”

  25. 25.

    H. Rolf Weber, “Internet of Things - New Security and Privacy Challenges,” Computer Law & Security Report 26, 1 (2010). at 23

  26. 26.

    Ibid.

  27. 27.

    De Hert, “A Right to Identity to Face the Internet of Things?.”

  28. 28.

    “Health Checks from Your Doctor Could Be Replaced by Visits to the Bathroom, Thanks to a Smart Toilet Developed by a Japanese Company.,” CNN.com 2005, no. June 28 (2005), http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/06/28/spark.toilet/index.html.

  29. 29.

    http://www.research.philips.com/newscenter/pictures/systsoft-ambintel.html

  30. 30.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambient_intelligence

  31. 31.

    Daniel Kane, “Digital Dandelions: The Flowering of Network Research,” USCD News Center, no. August, 31 (2007). Available at <http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/08-07DigitalDandelionsDK-.asp>

  32. 32.

    “De Burger in De Ketens: Verslag Van Nationale Ombudsman over 2008.”

  33. 33.

    Lee A. Bygrave, Data Protection Law: Approaching Its Rationale, Logic and Limits, vol. 10, Information Law Series (Kluwer Law International, 2002). at 21

  34. 34.

    The problem of distinguishing a data controller from a processor is quite common in the data protection literature. See, e.g., Christopher Kuner, European Data Protection Law: Corporate Compliance and Regulation, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). 70–71

  35. 35.

    Rebecca Wong, “Social Networking: Anybody Is a Data Controller?,” Social Science Research Network (2008).

  36. 36.

    Lucas Bergkamp, “Eu Data Protection Policy the Privacy Fallacy: Adverse Effects of Europe’s Data Protection Policy in an Information-Driven Economy,” Computer Law & Security Report 18, 1 (2002). at 37

  37. 37.

    Ibid.

  38. 38.

    Thomas Otter, “Data Protection Law: The Cinderella of the Software Indudtry?,” Computer Law & Security Report 23 (2007).

  39. 39.

    E.g., Yoram Barzel, Economic Analysis of Property Rights, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). p. 3: “Property rights in economics are “the individual’s ability, in expected terms, to consume the good (or the services of the asset) directly or to consume it indirectly through exchange. […] Legal rights are the rights recognized and enforced by the government. These rights, as a rule, enhance economic rights, but the former are neither necessary nor sufficient for the existence of the latter. A major function of legal rights is to accommodate third-party adjudication and enforcement. In the absence of these safeguards, rights may still be valued, but assets and their exchange must then be self-enforced.”

  40. 40.

    E.g. James Gordley, Foundations of Private Law : Property, Tort, Contract, Unjust Enrichment (Oxford [etc.]: Oxford University Press, 2006).

  41. 41.

    For examples of this terminological confusion in the US discourse see Purtova, “Property Rights in Personal Data: Learning from the American Discourse.”

  42. 42.

    Gordley, Foundations of Private Law : Property, Tort, Contract, Unjust Enrichment.

  43. 43.

    J.W. Bruce, Ely, James W. Jr., Cases and Materials on Modern Property Law, 6th ed. (Thomson West). p. 19; Remigius N. Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property, edited by Sheila McLean, Medical Law and Ethics (Aldershot – Burlington: Ashgate, 2007).; Kevin Gray, “Property in Thin Air,” Cambridge Law Journal 50, 2 (1991); Roy Vogt, Whose Property? The Deepening Conflict between Private Property and Democracy in Canada (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1999). Etc.

  44. 44.

    Gray, “Property in Thin Air.” P.296

  45. 45.

    In the US the XIII Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in 1865; in Eastern Europe slavery started gradually to disappear in the 15th century but formally seized to exist in Russia in 1861 (see “Slavery.” Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery).

  46. 46.

    Arnold S. Weinrib, “Information and Property,” University of Toronto Law Journal 38 (1988). At 121

  47. 47.

    Gray, “Property in Thin Air.” p. 253

  48. 48.

    Ibid. p. 254

  49. 49.

    A recent example of such attempts is Donna Dickenson, Property in the Body: Feminist Perspective (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

  50. 50.

    US case; in French civil law, new objects of property also have been developed, such as a business enterprise, and information - trade secrets Sjef Van Erp, “Security Interests: A Secure Start for the Development of European Property Law,” Maastricht University Faculty of Law Working Papers (2008). P. 18 citing Libchaber, La Recodification Du Droit Des Biens.

  51. 51.

    E.g. business goodwill in common and civil law (see Van Erp, “Security Interests: A Secure Start for the Development of European Property Law.”)

  52. 52.

    see Joshua Fairfield, “Virtual Property,” Boston University Law Review 85 (2005).

  53. 53.

    Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property. P. 17

  54. 54.

    See

  55. 55.

    All these jurisdictions passed relevant laws and set precedents in giving criminal sentences to those infringing upon others’ virtual property. (e.g., see Fairfield, “Virtual Property.”)

  56. 56.

    Ibid.

  57. 57.

    Vogt, Whose Property? The Deepening Conflict between Private Property and Democracy in Canada. p. 17

  58. 58.

    Although the rules of the civil law property model are characterised as “hard” and “inflexible,” the commentators of the continental European property law observe that it as well “undergoes an evolutionary and thus gradual change, caused by changing social, economic, cultural and political conditions.” (in Van Erp, “Security Interests: A Secure Start for the Development of European Property Law.”, p. 16)

  59. 59.

    Think of, e.g. the gun laws, changing registration requirements in land law, etc.

  60. 60.

    Human rights considerations may serve as moral limits on property rights: “’Property’ in a resource stops where the infringement of more basic human rights and freedoms begins.” (Gray, “Property in Thin Air.” At p. 294)

  61. 61.

    Moore v. Regents of the University of California (51 Cal. 3d 120; 271 Cal. Rptr. 146; 793 P.2d 479)

  62. 62.

    The idea of property as a political institution appears in Jeremy Bentham, “Security and Equality of Property,” In Property: Mainstream and Critical Positions, edited by C.B. Macpherson (Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 1978), Gray, “Property in Thin Air.”; Nwabueze talks about property rights reflecting expectations of the members of a given society as expressed by its political system. Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property. E.g. p. 25

  63. 63.

    E.g. Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property. p. 9

  64. 64.

    F.H. Lawson, Rudden, B., The Law of Property, 3rd ed., Clarendon Law Series (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002).

  65. 65.

    Ibid. starting on p. 90

  66. 66.

    Weinrib, “Information and Property.” At 121

  67. 67.

    Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property. P. 9

  68. 68.

    Section 3.4 will elaborate on how it is possible with regard to personal data.

  69. 69.

    Lawson, The Law of Property.

  70. 70.

    See Charles A. Reich, “The New Property,” Yale L.J. 73 (1964).; common law property framework is used for analysis of many relationships, also unconventional objects of property such as race, social security entitlements, etc. Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property.

  71. 71.

    Bram Akkermans, The Principle of Numerus Clausus in European Property Law (Antwerp - Oxford - Portland: Intersentia, 2008). P. 19

  72. 72.

    Ibid.

  73. 73.

    Ibid. 389 et seq.

  74. 74.

    Sjef Van Erp, “From ‘Classical’ To Modern European Property Law?,” Maastricht University Faculty of Law Working Papers (2009).

  75. 75.

    Van Erp, “Security Interests: A Secure Start for the Development of European Property Law.”

  76. 76.

    K. Lenaerts, Vanvoorden, K., “The Right to Property in the Case Law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities,” in Property and Human Rights, edited by H. Vandenberghe (Bruylant, 2006).

  77. 77.

    Prof. van Erp develops this point in Van Erp, “Security Interests: A Secure Start for the Development of European Property Law.”

  78. 78.

    Personal rights create obligations only for the parties of a contract. Steven Bartels, et al., Content of Real Rights (Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2004).; Michael J. Milo, “Property and Real Rights,” in Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, edited by Jan M. Smith (Edward Elgar, 2006).; Van Erp, “From ‘Classical’ To Modern European Property Law?.”; Gray, “Property in Thin Air.”

  79. 79.

    Van Erp, “From ‘Classical’ To Modern European Property Law?.”

  80. 80.

    Next to the common law rights in land (property in law), there are rights in equity developed by the courts within English system but of a different jurisdiction (e.g., covenants prohibiting a certain use of land for future buyers). It is not the purpose of this paper to go into details of the English land law.

  81. 81.

    For more information on the matter see, e.g. Alison Clarke, Kohler, Paul, Property Law: Commentary and Materials, edited by William Twining, McCrudden, Christopher, Law in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).; Akkermans, The Principle of Numerus Clausus in European Property Law.

  82. 82.

    As Akkermans explains, there is a slim chance of inclusion of a new right into the list of property interests. Akkermans, The Principle of Numerus Clausus in European Property Law.

  83. 83.

    For more on limitations of alienability of personal data see Nadezhda Purtova, “Private Law Solutions in European Data Protection: Relationship to Privacy, and Waiver of Data Protection Rights,” NHRQ (2010).

  84. 84.

    see Roger Brownsworth pointing at such a shortcoming of a consent requirement.

  85. 85.

    Katrin Schatz Byford, Privacy in Cyberspace: Constructing a Model of Privacy for the Electronic Communications Environment, 24 Rutgers Computer & Tech. L.J. 1 (1998)

  86. 86.

    Samuelson 2000, p. 1143

  87. 87.

    Samuelson 2000, p. 1143

  88. 88.

    Antoinette Rouvroy, Poullet, Yves, “The Right to Information Self-Determination and the Value of Self-Development: Reassessing the Importance of Privacy for Democracy,” In Reinventing Data Protection?, edited by Serge Gutwirth, et al. (Berlin: Springer, 2009).

  89. 89.

    Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property.

  90. 90.

    Lawson, The Law of Property. p. 198

  91. 91.

    Ibid.

  92. 92.

    A.C. Lagemaat, Boonk, M.L., Briet, M., “Vermogensrechtelijke Aspecten,” In Recht in Een Virtuele Wereld: Juridische Aspecten Van Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. (Elsevier, 2007).

  93. 93.

    Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property.

  94. 94.

    Gray, “Property in Thin Air.” P. 294

  95. 95.

    According to Gray, “the criterion of ‘excludability’ gets us much closer to the core of ‘property’ than does the conventional legal emphasis on alienability or enforceability of benefits.” Ibid.

  96. 96.

    Lawrence Lessig, Code 2.0 (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2006). at 217

  97. 97.

    Paul De Hert, Gutwirth, Serge “Making Sense of Privacy and Data Protection: A Prospective Overview in the Light of the Future of Identity, Location-Based Services and Virtual Residence in the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies: Report Eur 20823 En,” Security and Privacy for the citizen in the post-September 11 digital age: a Prospective overview (2003).

  98. 98.

    Jennifer Nedelsky, Property in Potential Life? at 44 cited in Nwabueze, Biotechnology and the Challenge of Property. 39–40

  99. 99.

    Jane Churchill, Patenting Humanity at 281 cited in Ibid. 40–41

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Purtova, N. (2011). Property in Personal Data: Second Life of an Old Idea in the Age of Cloud Computing, Chain Informatisation, and Ambient Intelligence. In: Gutwirth, S., Poullet, Y., De Hert, P., Leenes, R. (eds) Computers, Privacy and Data Protection: an Element of Choice. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0641-5_3

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