Data and Privacy | Who owns the data?

On a personal level:

As an 8-year-old young boy who grew up back in the 1980s, all I knew was that the data is my name and where I live. Living in a developing country, personal metadata like name and address was registered at my school. This included school bags, notebooks, and even pencils. To me, that’s all there was in terms of data. Fast-forward to 2022 after working in the technology sector for 2 decades. The way we understand, and use, data is extensively more complicated than in my childhood.

If I could summarize this, I would say that I’m basically made of data. My heart rate, skin colour, and even my Netflix list are all data. Data in profiles and biomarkers underpinning my identity.

Mandaluyong City, Philippines

photo by Jun Acullador (flickr)

Data in a technology-driven society

Either you love it or hate it

Data is, for those who can profit from it, a massive cash cow. For professionals in the technology sector, we have a substantially different relationship with it. We spend days looking at cryptic data, often at great physiological and cognitive toil. In most real world contexts, it’s difficult to decipher and it gives headaches to non-technical stakeholders for a given initiative. For us working in data assembly, we often end up on team hate the data.

At least at one point in our career…

Working in the QA space, data is one of those elements that can either pass or fail a process, application or logic. Data is something to be managed where inputs, outputs, and expected results can become cumbersome. No matter how much the proverbial “we” hates managing it, It needs to be organized and administered with structured and detailed approaches. We warm up to data, maybe a little, by saying

“Yes,I hate it. But I absolutely love it”.

Clear, semantic, well labeled, and properly planned for data organization is its own form of niche poetry. It’s a thing of beauty when system architectural considerations, design invocations, business requirement definitions, and technical execution harmonize to create outstanding work. The entire thought process that goes into it is fantastic, and this breeds both fun and job satisfaction.

“I absolutely love it, but it needs to be organized properly”

So, who owns the data?

We now live in a society where laws exist, and are continually emerging, to safeguard yourself, your online privacy, and the proprietary use of your data. Here in beautiful British Columbia, this is known as the Personal Information Protection Act. This is because your data is yours. As for data generated within a professional or corporate space, there needs to be, are, and should highly be encouraged, a vigilant rethink of the way organizations house, make use of, and sell user generated data. The future of the digital world is already here, perhaps now is the time to fundamentally revise our very relationships with the data we produce and store. The costs of neglect here, if not monitored, can slowly accrue providing complex and disproportionate outcomes. Now is the time to ask just who owns what anymore in the confines of data production.