IoT Faces Rights Challenge: Who Owns the Data?

A major focus of CES 2016 in Las Vegas last week was the Internet of Things (IoT). But what consumers don?EU?t know about data policies around the latest technology trend could hurt them.

Indeed, as IoT makes its way into the mainstream -- connecting homes, cars, and thermostats and more -- the data being collected is massive. One attorney is asking a key question in an age where privacy and security are more important than ever: Who owns the data?

The answer is disturbing, said Adam Rendle, a senior associate at Taylor Wessing LLP in the U.K. That's because the answer is no one owns the data. The data does not have property rights.

Two Important Criteria

?EU?The owner of a smart thermostat does not, for example, own the data about how he uses it,?EU? Rendle said in a blog post. ?EU?The only thing that is 'ownable' is an aggregation or collection of such data, provided there has been a relevant investment in carrying out that aggregation or collection -- the individual user is very unlikely to have made that investment.?EU?

There are two important reasons to work out what collections can be owned and who can own them, according to Rendle. The potential value of mining the data for market intelligence is one consideration, as is the potential for outsiders to exploit it.

Separating the potential ownership interests of various players in the data processing chain is an equally important reason. Rendle noted that users, hardware manufacturers, app developers, database architecture providers and data purchasers are among the many hands that may touch the data. Without identifying all the players, it?EU?s difficult to determine who holds economic rights.

Avoiding Unnecessary Litigation

?EU?Aggregations of data can be protected by database right. Database right is an EU-specific IP right which is designed to incentivize and protect the...

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