Governing Digital Information (GODINO): Users’ control and sovereignty over unpublicized digital information in the European Union

Under the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement no. PIEF-GA-2012-327916.
In line with the overall trend towards virtualization, individuals’ personal affairs, too, are composed of digital assets to an increasing amount. Today, everybody keeps digital records of photos, agendas, contracts, transactions, diaries etc. which are no longer filed away and kept as physical artefacts.  At about the same time, the era of local storage in end user equipment is about to give way to remote computing where data resides on third party equipment. However, once information, and even the most personal one, is no longer stored on equipment that is physically located in their homes  the relationship between individual users and their digital assets belonging to them is becoming increasingly abstract.
This research focuses on the implications of virtualization and remote computing for individuals’ unpublicized digital information (UDI), ie. those information which are not disclosed or shared as user generated content but used to sit on our desktop. The question to be answered with a combination of legal analysis and empirical research is whether –  taken together – the progressing virtualization and the disruption of physical control produce a backslide for individual positions of rights that is not properly understood. This understanding, however, is crucially needed in order to allow users’ interests to be taken fully into account when formulating new policies that would govern retail cloud services.
The overall objectives of the research project are:
(a) Investigate the legal treatment of UDI residing on third party equipment;
(b) Gather evidence on users’ attitudes about how UDI are protected as virtual private assets;
(c) Assess the socio-economic and societal consequences of the transformation against the multidisciplinary rationales for affording legal protection; and
(d) Address the governance challenge of UDI in order to conceive policy recommendations.