Who Owns Data About You?


Brad Daw

On Saturday, I blogged about a bill before the Utah Senate that would allow law enforcement to use administrative subpoenas to get data about you from your ISP when they suspected you of crimes against children. This would be done without a warrant and without any real oversight (as currently drafted).

This morning Rep. Brad Daw is testifying about his bill before the Senate Edcuation Committee (yeah, it's confusing). @sausagegrinder (a Daily Herald reporter) tweeted that Daw said:

Daw: 4th amend doesn't apply to his bill. The subpoenas would be for information owned by a company, not property of suspect

That's an interesting position. Forget the bill itself. Just consider the question of when information about you belongs to you, when it belongs to someone else, and when it belongs to multiple parties.

If we take the position, as Daw apparently does, the data in the ISP records about you, your address, you billing information, and other transactional data (although by his admission in an unlinkable Facebook exchange not the content of the transactions themselves) belongs to the ISP and not to you, where do we draw the line on what data about you belongs to you...at least in part?

What about your health data? Yeah, I know about HIPAA, but forget that--we're trying to suss out principles, not the law. Would you consider all the information about your doctor visits, the tests you took, the payments you made (or didn't) to be data in which you had no privacy interest? Even if the actual content of the tests and medical procedures was not included, there's a lot of private data to be had in the meta data about our activities. In fact, give me just your meta data and I can probably construct a pretty interesting picture about you.

I submit that any data about me, held by another party is usually jointly owned and that I have an interest in what happens to it. And by extension, that interest means that it is data that is protected by the fourth amendment from unwarranted government prying and snooping. Daw is playing fast and loose with this for the convenience of his bill and ignoring the larger consequences to our freedoms if such a mentality is not resisted.