J.E.J. Prins (Tilburg University)

In this article, it is suggested that, although it is all too often argued that vesting a property right in personal data is not in line with the continental, human-rights based approach to privacy, the European system definitely offers room for a property-rights model. Further analysis reveals, however, that there are doubts about whether such an approach would indeed offer the claimed prospects of achieving a higher level of personal data protection. Given developments such as ubiquitous computing, the use of personal data will increasingly occur within, and be structured by, social, economic and institutionalized settings. Thus it is suggested here that data protection mechanisms must be structured along lines of control and visibility in relation to identities, and not be based on ownership of personal data.

Cite as: J.E.J. Prins, The Propertization of Personal Data and Identities, vol 8.3 ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE LAW, (October 2004), <>

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1. Introduction
2. Human rights and the propertization of personal data
3. Contractual freedom, control rights and the EU Personal Data Directive
4. The propertization and commodification of our identities

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