Mark Skilton    Copyright 2019  ©

  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • White YouTube Icon
  • White LinkedIn Icon

Microsoft suing the US Government over data requests.

The fact that it has come to this following the Apple versus FBI case is a reflection of the state of antiquated laws that were mostly drawn up in the end of the 18th century and the race of the new digital technology economy that have rendered these obsolete. 


Is personal data the same as property ownership?


The key issue is if the definition of personal data is the same as personal property ownership? In a common law defined back in 1790 the question is whether data ca or cannot be ‘owned’ the way property is dependent on the type of data used. There is past legal example in the Google versus perfect 10  starting in 2006  where Google was sued for copyright violation by Perfect 10 for indexing  their photos posted on unauthorized websites. The case ruled partially in favour of Google being allowed to continue search listings but not to create thumbnails from the data. It remains unclear how owns data beyond just copyright violations in law.   

The objection from Microsoft is raising the bar of legal objection for being blocked from telling data owners that their data has been accessed by a government. Citing this as a violation of the fourth amendment right for a person to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. There remains a contradiction in the need to get access for public safety and national security and the lack of trust generated by the Edward Snowden revelations and Julian Assange wiki leaks over the purpose of surveillance and the huge rise in cyber threats. 

Need for Separate custody and access rights control

In a world where our personal data is held on mobile devices, smart payment cards and trusted to cloud services on social media sites and widely used by those cloud companies from ‘opt-in’ for marketing and other commercial use. Who is authorized to access your personal data if the rise of strong encryption such as the recent WhatsApp message security prevents direct access for legitimate legal reasons?

A way forward is perhaps in the separation of custodial rights of personal data from the permissions of that data. If the rise in new laws demanding access to data is met with more encryption by technology companies then new methods need to evolve to manage access rights that are better than just public and private security encryption ‘keys’ used today.  New personal data services will evolve to track and better enable people to manage their data while maintaining security and privacy.  If personal data is personal property then this may need a new way to add ‘secure doors in the front and back’ to look after this data.