My Data is My Data, Your Data is My Data…?

Interesting responses to the whole post on Friday about whether you can be compelled to share your data in a legal sense.  The article I linked to was about Microsoft/LinkedIn being compelled to make their data available, really without regard to whether they wanted to or not.  This was the gist of my question.

What surprised me was the quite broad range of interpretations of the question – which to me at least, means we have some ‘splainin’ to do.  The fact that “your data” means such different things to different people is going to make defining this type of thing quite difficult, frankly.

One response was addressing the sharing of your personal information with online services.  Can you be compelled to do that?  I admit that, at first, I figured they missed the point of the original post.  But think about this for a minute.  Right now when you sign up for a BitCoin account or a bank account or any number of shopping sites, you’re required to provide all sorts of things to the site.  Compelled to, really, if you want to interact.  I was setting up a BitCoin account and was really pretty uncomfortable with a seemingly random site needing copies of my driver’s license and other information that was a whole lot more than I’m used to sharing.  I don’t think my shoe size, mother’s maiden name and middle name of my first born was needed, but geez.  It was serious information.  So, ironically, I guess you CAN be compelled in that situation (assuming you want, or need, to use that service).

I received some good comments on Twitter (@swynk) both publicly and in DMs.

Again the interpretation was different from what I anticipated.  Much of it was tying the sharing of “source” and analysis data in terms of our political climate.  This is clearly top of mind for many people as there were more than a couple of people that wrote with this angle.  Essentially, they were saying “if you’re going to make a claim, you need (can be compelled) to provide your sources and basis for your analysis and determinations.  This was akin to making a public statement and then the feeling that you needed to provide clear and concise sources for your statements.  Obviously, this could be an interpretation of my original question, but I think the tendency to consider it this way does indeed come from the current political climate.

By the way, the original post is here:

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

So, my actual thought was this:

  • information was derived from public sources (users in this case) and compiled.
  • the process of accumulating and displaying that information is done by a company for monetization
  • the display, processing and linking of accounts, information, businesses, etc. are all proprietary to that company

So, my issue was that, it seems like the courts found that, since the data was viewable without cost (LinkedIn can be used for free) and is based on public information (provided by users), that that information MUST be made available to outside third party companies, whether LinkedIn wanted to do that, or not.   Keep in mind that LinkedIn is mixing together proprietary data and processes and logic to create their services.  They add to that with the publicly provided data.

OK.  But doesn’t that mean that if I figure out that people buy bicycles when the weather is less than 90f and more than 60f and where in specific populations I should put my next world-dominating bicycle store based on traffic data, weather data and population demographics, that it’s possible that I can be compelled, legally, to share the fruits of my analysis with a potential competitor?  It’s a stretch, but I don’t feel it’s a big stretch at all.

Even less so if you think about the statements about public statements (above) and the court’s rationale for saying LinkedIn had to share.

So, reading over the original post and the court statements linked there, how do you think this could be applied to company intelligence that incorporates public datasets?  Is this a cautionary tale, or a “Geez SWYNK, you’re really reaching here!

What do you think?

  • NameThatTune

    That decision by the Judge makes no sense.

    If I were a lawyer (which I am not) I would argue that the information is NOT public data and the fact that the user was not charged money to provide that information is irrelevant.

    Linked-In used proprietary technology to compel people to provide their professional background information for the purpose of monetizing that information from sources other than the person who provided it.

    There is nothing to stop another person from creating technology to compel a human to provide personal information.

    Why should some company get that information for free? Linked-In didn’t get it for free. It costed bundles of money and people took risks to fund the company.

    What risk does any company have that compels a judge to grant that company access to the data that Linked-In worked hard to do and spent a lot of money to do.

    That smells like Communism.

    This reminds me of my first marriage. My wife at the time used to joke that “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is ours”.

    If I’d only seen, that the joke was on me…

    I would certainly appeal that ridiculous decision. Also, I would make the API function in a way that would force the user of the API to negotiate for each piece of information and send the results one character at a time with a pause in between that mimicks the slowest typist on the planet. Also, I would throw in some typos in my results to make sure I’m appropriately mimicking a human.


  • wombat_7777

    I disgree. A private company owns the data, regardless of where it comes from, once its on it s own premises. This is an ignoring of the 4th amendment in effect – even an Australian can see that. This is just strong arm tactics to get people used to be belted over the head when and if the powers that be decide they want to pwn you. It should be resisted, but now that precedent has been set ( the original reason for this it seems ) it will weaken constitutional protections against flimsy reasons for seizure of private property…….which as NameThatTune says, is Communism.