Last Friday, January 27, Georgia Law was fortunate to hear from six experts on the subject of Big Data and how the law can be adapted to respond to increased personal data collection. Dr. Lea Shanley, Dr. Renata Rawlings-Goss, attorney Robert Ball, Professor Fazal Khan, Professor Christian Turner, and Professor Joseph Miller debated the ways in which attorneys can respond to problems created by Big Data.
Putting the issue in context, Mr. Ball began by saying that the current generations are leaving behind more data than any generation beforehand. He argued that new technology has created a new data trail, with our phones, FitBits, Jawbones, and Apple Watches constantly collecting personal information about our heart rates, locations, and activity levels.
Dr. Rawlings-Goss and Professor Khan discussed how this increased collection of information can actually benefit society in the healthcare arena, as doctors and scientists now have greater access to information about one’s lifestyle and health profile. Further, health insurance providers may be able to rely on this data in reducing a person’s insurance premiums. However, Professor Khan was quick to note that our devices also collect and store highly sensitive information about one’s lifestyle decisions and medical status. He argued that this data must be fiercely protected, just as electronic medical records protect sensitive health information.
Professor Turner argued that the law cannot yet answer questions posed by big data, namely, who owns and has rights to this collected information. Turner suggested that the next generation of lawyers will be charged with the task of applying the law to preserve individual privacy in this new information age. Turner emphasized that existing property law has not yet addressed Big Data ownership and how information can be protected.
However, Professor Miller countered that the law will soon adapt to answer the legal challenges presented by data collection, just as the law has done in the past. Miller cited the evolution of property law to respond to problems posed by intellectual property. Like the copyright and patent legal regimes, Professor Miller suspects that law will develop and evolve in order to protect an individual’s data rights.
The Journal of Intellectual Property Law thanks all who made this panel possible, and we look forward to hosting the 2018 Big Data Panel next year.