We already know intuitively that data is an asset but that varying perspectives result in different ways in which such an asset is viewed. For example, from a financial perspective data is not accounted for as an asset; though you may account for (intangible) good-will from a client-base, you are not allowed to put any value in your balance sheet to represent your actual customer data. A follow-on result is that you cannot easily insure against loss of that data, only that hardware in which it sits.
But there are many other perspectives that offer different results. In the US print edition of the Wall Street Journal November 28th there is a Comment titled, “Is it unreasonable to expect cellphone privacy?” The Comment looks at a case that will be reviewed by the Supreme Court this week that could change that way the police or other agencies get access to data, or metadata, related to how citizens use their cellphones.
It seems, if I understand the article correctly, that in the eyes of the current law, some cellphone data is property owned by the user, and as such, is subject to a warrant should an inquiring agency want access to it. It so happens that the case in question explores how police capture some location data (metadata) about phone calls without the consent of the citizen on whom such data presumably informs the wareabouts. The article explains the impact of what happens should the court support the idea that data is the citizen’s property, or if it is owned by the cellphone operator, or if not actually treated as property at all.
Even the late Justice Scalia is included in the report, since he has rules on several related cases. His previously rulings seem pretty clear that data is owned by those that create it at least conceptually, and any agency that seeks to access it through means outside of normal or well known methods require special permission, such as warrants.
All in all it seems ‘data as an asset’ is by no means agreed, let along accepted or understood. Sometime soon the digital era will catch up with everyone…
The above blog was written Tuesday – here is an update as of Thursday:
In “Justices Question Sweeps of Cell Data” we hear that the findings of the supreme court are going with the citizen, and not with the government agencies that want access to our cellphone meta-data without due process.