Legal State of Personal Data

There are no laws in the US defining ownership of personal data.  Isn’t that strange? It seems logical that your data would belong to you.  You say “my data” the same way you say “my phone” or “my sandwich,” but the latter two belong to you and the former only pertains to you but belongs to whoever has it in their hands at the moment, sort of like a bearer bond: possession implies ownership.

Lisa Roberts, convicted by cell tower location data, then exonerated by demonstrating inaccuracy, with her legal team. Source

In court, personal data has a significant affect on the outcome of decisions.  In one case, a woman’s claims that she was assaulted were exposed to be fictitious at least in part due to her wearable activity tracker data.  In another case, Lisa Roberts was convicted of manslaughter using cell location data, then exonerated 12 years later by showing that the data in question did not prove what the prosecution claimed it did. I am sure there have also been many false prosecutions which were avoided but would have otherwise occurred had it not been for exonerating cell phone location data.  We don’t hear about them because the data procured by the authorities demonstrates innocence, and the individual is stricken from the list of suspects without fanfare.  You have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide…unless you’re Ms. Roberts.

A recent court decision found that the individual had no expectation of privacy when sharing information with a 3rd party.  Had the decision gone the other way, it would have protected personal data, especially location data, under the 4th Amendment, meaning the courts would require a warrant for use by the prosecution.  While it’s true, no one expects privacy anymore, but at least in the case of Ms. Roberts she would want it.  The lack of expectation is more a function of the broken data economy than it is of individual wishes or interests. This is made more apparent by the fact that often the prosecution can easily gain access to that data, where you (the defense) would have a much harder time. So your data can be used against you in the court of law, but can’t be used by you to defend yourself because you don’t have access?

Just sayin’, but if you are a TwoSense user, that wouldn’t be a problem, because you have better quality data on yourself than any second or 3rd party, especially location data.