Data Governance in the Age of Data Monopolies: An Intro to Data Trusts

  • September 23, 2019
  • Alexandra David

The importance of effective data governance has  become a hot topic for both companies and individuals. With data being the world’s most valuable commodity, significant thought must be given to balancing the competing interests of corporations and individuals. Data trusts may offer the answer that we are all looking for.

When Interests Do Not Align

Data is an asset, and thus, whoever controls data controls the market. This imbalance of power creates tensions between individuals (i.e., the providers of data) and companies (i.e., the holders of data).

At the individual level, conversations about data governance are becoming more prevalent as individuals begin to understand the sheer extent of data that we are sharing (knowingly or not) with corporations. Smaller corporate entities are also concerned over the potential negative impact that data monopolies may have on the economy. If market giants like Google, Facebook or Amazon continue to hold and control access to a majority of the data available, data ownership itself will become a barrier to entry into the market, preventing new players (and perhaps, better players) from gaining the market share necessary to survive and grow.

Governments are stepping in to address these concerns. Within the last few years, several U.S. companies have come out in support of a federal privacy law, and countries across the European Union have adopted the General Data Protection Regulation giving Europeans the right to request and delete their data. The Government of Canada continues to monitor ways in which to improve the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to better protect the public’s interest in their private data.