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The Data Trust Solution to Data Sharing Problems

Posted by on Monday, March 6, 2023 in Articles, Volume 25, Volume 25, Issue 1.

Kimberly A. Houser* & John W. Bagby | 25 Vand. J. Ent. & Tech. L. 113 (2023)

A small number of large companies hold most of the world’s data. Once in the hands of these companies, data subjects have little control over the use and sharing of their data. Additionally, this data is not generally available to small and medium enterprises or organizations who seek to use it for social good. A number of solutions have been proposed to limit Big Tech “power,” including antitrust actions and stricter privacy laws, but these measures are not likely to address both the oversharing and under-sharing of personal data. Although the data trust concept is being actively explored in the United Kingdom, European Union, and Canada, this is the first Article to take an in-depth look at the viability of data trusts from a US perspective. A data trust is a governance device that places an independent fiduciary intermediary between Big Tech and human data subjects. This Article explores how data trusts might be configured as bundles of contracts in the information supply chain. In addition to their benefits for the social good, data trusts might contribute to relieve some of the tension between EU and US privacy practices.

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