Who owns the data?

The authors of Who owns the Internet of things? raise an interesting question: what expectations will consumers have over the ownership of data collected by their connected products?

Prevailing thinking in many developing IoT markets is that the provider of a product or service is the center of gravity. For example, original equipment manufacturers OEMs in many industrial and commercial markets expect to define and deliver new services by leveraging IoT capabilities in their products. The implied, and often explicit, assumption is that OEMs will own and control the resulting data.

The owners of all those IoT-connected appliances, cars, and industrial equipment are likely to believe that the data those items throw off is theirs–not the OEMs.

I personally expect the service to own the data but expect that that data will be made available for me in perpetuity. This is simply the model I have built through my entire life of interacting with service companies.

Take my credit card as an example, I fully expect that my bank owns the data about what I buy. They need this data to provide me the service and all I expect in return is to be able to access that data and some level of analysis of my habits. As I became a more sophisticated consumer of credit, I looked for banks that I could trust with this data and ditched those I could not, but I never stopped to think that the data belonged to me.

So far, I’ve transferred this perspective to connected device services like TiVO, runnkeeper.com, Nest, Nike+ and others. As I see it, they collect data about me in order to provide a service that is valuable enough for me to provide them with the data. In cases where I can export that data and maintain joint custody, all the better, but I don’t feel like I own the data.

It does get a little blurry. When it comes to dropbox, I my expectation are a bit different. Data they collect about the my usage of their service is theirs but I certainly don’t expect them to stake a claim over my files.

Anyway, as I said earlier it is an interesting question and I look forward to seeing if my opinion is shared by others and if it changes over time. If it does change over time, I hope it won’t just be an issue for IoT companies to contend with. It seems like long standing services, like banks, utilities and every other business that collects information about their customers could be challenged to adapt.

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