Can you own digital data?

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Due to an increasing amount of data, the question of its ownership is becoming a very important issue. In the context of the EU data market study, IDC and Open Evidence organised a webinar on 20 July called “Who will be the masters of the data universe? How businesses manage ownership of the datasets powering the data economy”. Giorgio Micheletti from IDC, started with the business challenges about data ownership issues. Arthur van der Wees, CEO of Arthur’s Legal, followed with the legal challenges and David Osimo from Open Evidence talked about the EC Free flow of data initiative.

To answer the question “Can you own digital data?”, you first need to identify the type of data, and each one needs to be assessed differently. There are many kinds: sensitive, personal, classified, etc. Arthur van der Wees notes a paradox with data in that as a flowing not statis matter, owning data is very different from owning a car or a phone. According to Giorgio Micheletti, the type of data is more relevant than its ownership: personal data or transaction data.

Arthur van der Wees also prefers to look at data from a “control” point of view, instead of ownership. “Because when you control data, it means that you are able to control who is able to access and use the data.”

Sharing the data

In 2004, the BBVA bank created its own branch,“BBVA Data & Analytics”, to deal with the data produced by the banks and to exchange this data. Not only is it exchanging aggregated and anonymised data with the retail and tourism sectors, it is also allowing access to this data to other partners. This openness brings a set of issues concerning the regulation and the business model. Until a few months ago, the data access was free of charge. They now have to think about the price and the value they are going to give to this data. It is also creating issues for the banks themselves because if the open model is actually going through, these third parties accessing the data could be potential competitors.

This is why the way data is managed and shared between organisations is primordial. “Data can be shared in different ways”, says David Osimo. “There are two extremes: open data and closed data. In the middle, there’s traded data.” Moreover, data is no longer an exchange among two partners, explains Giorgio Micheletti. “More and more players are coming into the exchange, especially some traditionally vertical markets such as manufacturing and retail. There is a new world powered by IT. More machines producing data are created, so there is more and more data.”

In fact, the European data market, where digital products and services are exchanged, represented €54.4 billion in 2015. The way that data could be used, reused and exchanged could affect the way the overall concept of data market and the data economy could evolve in the next five years, concludes Giorgio Micheletti.

For more information, please find the ppt presentations of our speakers here: Giorgio Micheletti (IDC) and Arthur van der Wees (Arthur’s Legal)