U.S. Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Data Ownership

The U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a full committee hearing entitled “Data Ownership: Exploring Implications for Data Privacy Rights and Data Valuation.” Committee Chairman Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) acknowledged in his opening statement that “there have been many questions about what personal data is being collected, how it is being collected, with whom it is being shared and how it is being used.” Rapid innovation of technology has impacted all sectors and markets as industries strive to be more connected and technologically savvy. This results in a plethora of data being produced, all throughout the day about consumer habits and daily lives. Chairman Crapo goes on to state that “associated with concepts about data ownership or control is the value of personal data being used in the marketplace, and the opportunities for individuals to benefit from its use.” Ranking Member Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) offered examples of companies in his opening statement that have had data breaches or do not have a history of protecting consumer data and expressed concern when talking about “Americans’ data to be treated like property.”

In their opening statements, witness testimonies touched on similar concepts as they provided lawmakers considerations to contemplate when drafting privacy legislation. Mr. Chad Marlow discussed data as a property model, and a “central tenet of [that model] is that the government should establish – through regulating and policing a universal marketplace of personal data – that individuals are “owners” of their personal information and, consequently, have a property-based right to sell or refuse the sale of their data to third parties.” Mr. Marlow highlighted two pieces of legislation in the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act and Maine’s “Act to Protect the Privacy of Online Customer Information”, that make advances to protecting consumer privacy that, at the same time, do not treat data as property. However, both of these pieces of legislation fail to establish who owns the digital data, which Mr. Ritter states is the “the most fundamental question [when discussing privacy law].”


  • Jeffrey Ritter, Founding Chair, American Bar Association Committee on Cyberspace Law, External Lecturer
  • Chad Marlow, Senior Advocacy and Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Will Rinehart, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy, American Action Forum
  • Michelle Dennedy, Chief Executive officer, DrumWave Inc.

To view the hearing in its entirety, click here.

Written by Alexandra Moyer

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