Edited by Anne S.Y. Cheung and Rolf H. Weber
Chapter 4: Re-personalizing personal data in the cloud
Any personal data legal regime hinges upon whether personal data are utilized. As fundamental and obvious as that statement may seem, identification of the common constitutive elements of personal data has proved to be a difficult task. A study covering the 36 data protection laws of 30 countries, for example, found a lack of consensus on what personal data even are. Despite the absence of harmonization, however, the study also found the definitions of personal data in most countries revolve largely around the notion of ‘identified’ and/or ‘identifiable’ individuals. The current definition in the European Union, for instance, encompasses both types of individuals, whilst the US legal regime protects only the former. Although the debate surrounding the concept and definition of personal data has broad repercussions for the governance of personal data in general, it is particularly pertinent to the cloud environment in which data are exposed on a global scale. Regardless of which service or deployment model of cloud computing is involved, the rights of data subjects (whether businesses or individuals), the responsibilities of data controllers and a host of other legal regulations are issues of concern when personal data are collected, used, stored or processed. Unsurprisingly, data subjects tend to view their data as personal data, whereas cloud service providers are inclined to think otherwise in their efforts to save costs and facilitate further technological and business advances through data use.
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