Can You Be (Legally) Compelled to Share Your Data?

There’s a recent decision that caught my eye about Microsoft, LinkedIn and ownership and presentation of data.  Specifically, whether LinkedIn is allowed (!) to protect their data and filter/present it as they wish, or not present it depending on their desires.

Here’s a link to the post

It seems to me like this is a bizarre, slippery slope.  Heck, perhaps it’s not even a slope.

The inference is that if you’ve done the work to create systems that summarize or present data in a public forum, it’s possible that you may no longer own that data, it may be public data…

This flies in the face of “using big data to create new correlations and information elements” (my quotes) which is something we’re very commonly involved in.  Heck, even IBM’s Watson is known for ingesting Twitter feeds and other social media posts to determine sentiment and infer interest in topics, products and the like.   It seems to me like this is creeping closer to saying that since your information is based on public information, the intellectual property formulated is also public.

It also seems that many (most? all?) companies would disagree on that point.  The analysis we do, and the inferences drawn are, in my opinion, the very things of intellectual property.  That may be gathering employment profiles and displaying them (and yes, monetizing them) or it may be pulling data from weather, traffic and buying behavior public sources and inferring when people are most interested in different types of coffee, or widgets, or…

I hope we’re not entering a phase where data from all of the data stores (more specifically “information” – data that’s been figured out) becomes something that is a public asset.  I’m all for that if you’re sharing it to further a cause or whatever.  But if we’re talking what amounts to company secrets, we could be in a place where a companies informational backbone can be extracted and used by competitors or, well, anyone.

Perhaps this is just my take on this.  I would love to hear your thoughts as well.  Do you think that information that is created from public sources is itself public (or should be)?  Do you think there is a danger of information ownership and control being based on on the foundation of that information?

If the answer is yes, what about publicly “owned” – as in generated by governments funded with taxpayer funds.  If it’s publicly funded, do we have a right to that fruits of the data collected?  I grant you that may be a stretch, and of course depending on your viewpoint different rules apply to government and public/private companies, but boy that line sure gets wavy when we start down that road if it’s anything other than “he who built it, determines,” yes?


  • Dawn Marie

    Stephen, this is a VERY SCARY question. This is why I rarely enter data in to web browser applications. If they ask for too much info, I leave the application. But that’s just me…everyone else I know is sure that their data is safe.

    Disqus requires my personal info just to post this…nothing major but just thought I would point that out.

    Always be aware of what information you are posting and all the little check-boxes that are checked!

  • Kelly D

    Ya, scary question indeed, especially when I hear about fake news, fake profiles, and more. I wonder if Blockchain won’t disrupt this because you will have your profile and give access to parts of it. You are in control, the inverse of what we have today.

    But you know what I always say my man, if you are not paying the service you are the product being sold …