What is my personal data?

By Johannes Ernst


Lots of people talk about personal data, but not so many agree what exactly that is.

At Dazzle, when we say “my personal data” we mean:

  • All data that relates to me. For example, if I place an order for a beach ball at an e-commerce site, that order and the data representing the beach ball is now my personal data, because I placed the order and so it is related to me.

  • All data that I have interacted with. For example, if I just read an interesting article on, say, how to cook Fava Beans, in our definition, this article is now part of my personal data. In a way it is even without bringing computers into the picture, because part of what the article said is now in my memory in my brain!

Note: copyright laws may prevent me to actually store a copy of some of that personal data some of the time. But that won't apply all of the time, and laws change, so we consider it in-scope for our definition.

As you undoubtedly noticed, the Dazzle definition is a very broad and expansive definition of “personal data”. Other projects define it much more narrowly. For example, some think of personal data as just the data that is directly attributable to a person, like their name, date of birth and hair color.

We prefer our broader definition over narrower ones, because it fits our mission statement much better:

We take back our personal data …

This works much better for “we take back all the data that relates to me or that I have interacted with” than “we take back the data that describes me as a person”. Taking back just that person-describing data would not be interesting, I already know how I look like! But taking back as much as possible of the data that I have interacted with has real values, because it’s all the data that I’ve ever cared about.