Who actually owns your data? At first the answer to this question may seem obvious - of COURSE we own our personal health records, education records, financial records...
But do we, really? Data ownership presumes use rights, who can share what, with whom. What about those education records that reside in someone else's learning management system? Judging from the recent news story about student records being sold as part of ConnectED's bankrupcy settlement, it is clear that some companies believed these records were theirs to sell.
Stories like this, and of InBloom's implosion over the prospect of sharing student data with commercial service providers, have even resulted in bans on data sharing that have emerged in some states. But data sharing according to what?
What about the data captured on our mobile devices? Does it belong to the individual, the carrier or the device manufacturer? What about our social media engagements and interactions? Despite the number of well-intentioned postings of declarations of data ownership I've seen on Facebook, it seems clear that if one posts items on a free internet services site page to share, that we may not be the only one sharing them.What about all those data left behind when we complete a transaction on Amazon? Don't you ever wonder about how those companies from whom you buy your various consumer products know enough about you to send you a birthday card???
Have you every seen how many companies are sucking up the digital crumbs of your online interactions? (Hint: Download the Ghostery, Inc. client to your browser. You might be very surprised to see just how many analytics, advertising and beacons links are paying very close attention to what you are doing.)
This brings me to two big observations:
(1) Privacy, as many of us have known it, is a thing of the past. It is extinct. When one considers the number of sensors, transponders, transmitters and cameras we encounter on a daily basis, it is very clear how easy it can be to reconstruct what one is up to, should one be a "person of interest". On the positive side, it will hopefully keep people honest in their dealings and transactions, since we can all check up on each other. On the continued positive side, it represents opportunities for convenience and customization, with services tailored to our uses and preferences.
(2) Nobody owns all our data. Not even us. It is data anarchy out there. While we can hope, we can't expect that some intra-global agency will make overarching rules that everyone will follow and all will live happily ever after. We are all going to need to know enough about the benefits and possible risks that sharing data brings to make smart decisions about the data we are willing to share, and what we expect to get in return. Most of us accept some exposure in exchange for the convenience that data sharing affords us; but most of us also get very uncomfortable at the prospect of a bunch of code jockeys deciding to hack a cloud service hosting our digital stuff and sharing our private information with the world.
Data-readiness means knowing enough to pay attention - to security settings, to filters, to groups, to passwords and shared information - so that we know what is really going on with our digital data, knowing what and how we are sharing, and with whom. THEN we can make decisions based on evidence, because THAT is the whole point.