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Friday, May 02, 2014


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Chanson de Roland

Vertesi’s story is illuminating, but she really never had a chance. For example, if she ordered any prescription drug related to her pregnancy, pursuant to a holding of the U.S. Supreme Court, the pharmacy can share that information with the maker of the drug, which then has little restriction on how it uses the knowledge of her pregnancy.

The fundamental problem is this: How did our personal information cease to be ours? We no longer have any property rights in our personal data, of which we, each of us, are the sole and exclusive authors by and through the actions of our individual lives. Google, data brokers, Facebook, and their ilk don't author our personal information, nor does any government. Yet that information, about where we are, who we communicate with, and all the other information which makes up our lives and which defines who we are, belongs to Google and its ilk! Or to government intelligence agencies! And there is no longer any reasonable dispute that clever analysis of our personal information reveals our most intimate details. So we don't have any property rights in our personal information. How did that happen? How did the information that we write by living cease to be ours?

Well, there is the problem of determining the origin of property rights in the common law. As a law professor of mine once said: the common law is pretty good at transferring property rights, but it often fails at determining the origin of those rights. But there are some principles to guide us, and they clearly demonstrate that the information which we author by living is ours.

The law is clearest about the origin of rights in intangible property when it comes to invention and authorship: He, who authors, since the Statute of Ann, is the owner of what he authors. Each of us solely and exclusively authors our personal information, so each of us, therefore, should own our personal information. Any law to the contrary unconstitutionally deprives us of our property rights in our personal information. Thus, those who take our personal information without our license to do so violate our property rights and arguably our copyright in our personal information. Therefore, Google and its ilk misappropriate and infringe on our rights in our personal information to the extent that they take and use it without our license to do so.

To remedy the massive violations of our property rights in our personal information, let us begin by acknowledging that we, each of us, as the authors of our personal information, owns our personal information and that others may not collect or use it without our freely and fairly negotiated license to do so.

R Michelle Green

If there is information available to be mined, it will be mined. Vertesi's story is quite the cautionary tale, but does show me that it will take far more fortitude and conscientiousness than I have to follow her path.

You could put so much contradictory info out there that you are unwittingly anonymized. When I buy things for others the net doesn't always know it's for others, and markets it to me....


Thanks for the comment. The key question: SHOULD it take so much "fortitude and conscientiousness" to remain anonymous online and offline? In the European Union, it is called, "The right To Be Forgotten." see:

Internet Privacy - The Right To Be Forgotten

Europe's 'Right to Be Forgotten' Should Terrify U.S. Tech Companies

Or, as one reader described it: online users in the USA have no property rights to own and control their sensitive personal information.


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