What Data is Really Needed?

The GDPR took effect in May of this year, at least with regards to enforcement. A few days after the May 25 date, a German court ruled against ICANN, the company that registers domain names on the Internet and manages the global WHOIS database. The case revolves around the information collected when you register a domain. ICANN wants multiple contacts, which they’ve required for decades. However, a company in Germany that is a partner, argued that the additional technical and administrative contacts were not required for fulfilling the business that both ICANN and EPAG (the German registrar) are engaged in. ICANN Is appealing the ruling, citing the need for clarification of what this means with regard to the law.

This is interesting to me, because a) it concerns data, and b) there is an interesting argument here to be made about what data is needed for a business purpose. I could see this being argued successfully either way, and not just in court. As a domain holder, does the registrar really need multiple different sets of personal information from me? Arguably, this is a convenience for them, one that is based on tradition. However, one could argue the other way.

It is a little scary that a court, with no expertise in some industry (Internet domain registration, in this case), will decide if there is an actual business need. After all, can a lawyer or judge really understand what data a business needs in their daily activities?

Maybe, maybe not, but I do think this forces businesses to actually stop and think about what data they collect, have a justification, and document that. That’s a good thing, because often I find business people just asking to collect data without any idea what they’ll do with the information. I also find technical people collecting data, not maliciously, but often to anticipate what might be asked of a system, or because they want to avoid rework and just decide to collect everything they can.

Data is precious, and while I don’t want to put many limits on what data businesses can collect, I also don’t want to them be able to collect anything, not disclose what they’ve collected, and not secure it properly. Having some limits, or at least forcing them to consider the risk of holding old, useless data, is likely a good thing for all of us.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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