Crime / Law

A Lawyer’s Perspective on Big Data

The goal of this blog post is to help you understand Big Data from a legal perspective. To do this, you need to look at Big Data as I do. Thinking like a lawyer will help you identify and appreciate issues that are crucial to your business.

Individuals and corporations often place a high value on their ownership interest in information. That sense of ownership — the feeling that some data is public information while other data must remain private — is the starting point in your analysis of data from a legal perspective. Private data, as used here, refers to data that is kept strictly confidential. Public data, on the other hand, refers not just to data that is fully disclosed to the public (information that appears on a website, for instance) but also to data that is disclosed, or partially disclosed, under specific circumstances to a limited audience.

Privacy law tends to draw bright lines that separate public data from private data. That legal distinction creates challenges regarding disclosure of big data because, in the real world, the distinction between public and private is not always clear. To begin to learn the legal issues involved in a big data transaction, you must learn to translate the legal distinction into a real world distinction between what is public and what is private. The distinction, at least initially, is figuring out who originated the data: the initial owner of the information (for instance, a person who fills out a Facebook profile). Determining who might have an ownership claim in the data that is the subject of your analysis will help you identify who you might be required to contact, or analyze, in order to figure out their expectation of privacy in the data.

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