In the seventeenth century, political philosopher James Harrington noted that the determining element of power in preindustrial England was the ownership of land. James Madison, arguably the father of the U.S. Constitution and an admirer of Harrington, later summed up his views in an aphorism—“power follows property.”
‘Data’ has emerged as the twenty-first century ‘land’, the new form of power. Big data, and in particular, personal big data—the zeros and ones, that, when combined, can reveal unique information about individuals—has already begun to demonstrate its transformative potential. As data begins to reveal more about individuals, its value and impact on those individuals will increase. Conceptions of property must expand from the physical to the virtual to meet twenty-first century realities. Data should be viewed as a form of property.
The Ramifications of Personal Big Data
Global digital data is doubling yearly, and individual consumers create the majority of that data, producing, in essence, digital footprints. These individual consumer digital footprints—downloads, e-mails, ‘likes’, cell-phone location readings, clicks, and purchases—are just the beginning. People are becoming increasingly socialized into sharing more personal information.