Who really owns your Data?

Who really owns your Data?


By John Walubengo,

In this era of what is known as the knowledge economy, data is definitely the engine or the resource that enterprises extract to create value.

With developments in the technology space, we find ourselves in a reality where we are generating data all the time, from any location, using multiple devices – even when we are asleep.

When you settle down to sleep at the end of your busy day, your mobile phone remains awake, telling your mobile service provider where you slept that night and what time you woke up, and where your next destination was thereafter.

If you did not switch off your internet box from the ISP, they would know how many of you slept in that house based on the number of active internet connections they received from that house during the night.

When you leave for work in the morning, thousands of cameras that we have in the big urban cities will be able to trace out your face, your mode of transport, car registration details amongst other personal details.

We have all come to accept this reality to the point where it really does not bother us. Perhaps feeling this might be the price we have to pay in order to remain secure or be protected from threats such as terrorism.

But who owns this data, this personal digital profile that these data collectors or data controllers have about us?

Thanks to the new Data Protection Act, you the citizen own your digital profile and footprint. You own every digital action you make – whether consciously or unconsciously.

So all the digital footprints you have left at your mobile service provider, eTaxi service provider, online shopping your online ticket-booking provider is your data. It belongs to you – contrary to the popular assumption that it belongs to the various service providers.

The bigger question however is “so what?”


What are you going to do about your data? Data is what is transforming the wealth of data companies and their shareholders from being dollar billionaires to having trillions.

In short, what is your cut in this data economy?

In answering this last question, we use the following example.

You have been visiting some online food delivery site and ordering some fast foods for lunch for some three months now.

One morning you open your mail and realize that your health insurer is proposing to increase your monthly premiums and you are wondering where all this is coming from.

Basically the history of your food-order has been traded or sold to some health analytics company whose algorithms predict that your consumption of junk food makes you a risk candidate whose health insurance should go up.

Essentially, beyond making money by selling you junk food, your supplier has also made money by selling your data or your digital history to interested third parties.

And before you say this is illegal, you probably did not read the small print when you signed up on the deliveries mobile App during the registration process. You actually consented to this type of third party trading of your data.

In short you agreed to a deal, but you are getting absolutely nothing out if it – other than the junk food and an increase in your health insurance payments.

Maybe you deserve some financial compensation for your traded data. Perhaps you do not, given that you already signed away your rights on this second layer of activity with your data.

These are the debates that are going to gain traction as Citizens become more aware of their data rights as well as the overwhelming advantages the data controllers have over their data.

Do not be left holding the short end of the stick in this digital economy. Spare some time and learn more about your data protection rights and begin to review and question some of the small prints you are signing off.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Nation.

About the author

John Walubengo, MSc, BSc, CISA, is a Data Protection Officer at Ajua and an ICT lecturer Multimedia University of Kenya. John was appointed to two critical Taskforces looking into emerging technologies and policies in Kenya namely the National Taskforce on Data Protection and the Taskforce on Blockchain & AI. He is an avid scholar with a series of publications as well as contributing to a weekly column on topical ICT issues in one of the largest dailies in East and Central Africa.

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