The legal challenges posed by Big Data: questions of exploitation and protection


Based on the example of intelligent traffic, this project examines who owns the data that comes from self-driving cars, for instance. Who has the right to sell such data, what role does data protection play – and could the data generated by driving be taken as evidence and used in criminal proceedings against the will of the parties involved?

Portrait / project description (ongoing research project)

Current legislation is not designed for Big Data. It factors in neither the benefits nor the risks of large volumes of data. Taking the example of intelligent traffic, this research project examines four key subquestions: Who owns the data that comes from automated driving? What role does data protection play? When can data be used as evidence in criminal proceedings? And can the manufacturers or users of self-driving cars file for criminal prosecution if data is uncovered by third parties through spying and then published? Taking current law as a starting point, the project creates a framework for a group of specialists from academia and practice to draft recommendations for new statutory provisions.


Technical advances are frequently ahead of changes in the law, and this applies to the use of Big Data – e.g. from self-driving cars. These cars just happen to produce huge amounts of data that is inadequately regulated in terms of data protection or access rights. This raises numerous questions: Do users of automated driving systems need to be protected against unrestricted data evaluation? Or should they be entitled to a share in the value of the data generated during operation? And what if the reconstructed pattern of movements is of interest not only for the purposes of personalised advertising but also to the criminal prosecution authorities?


The initial objective is to establish whether current legislation permits adequate regulation of Big Data. This is a source of legal uncertainty that is proving to be an obstacle to the development and application of technological innovations. Where there is insufficient regulation, recommendations for legislative changes will be drawn up. Interdisciplinary collaboration will help to promote mutual understanding between technical and legal experts in the Big Data domain.


The project provides a legal framework for the development and exploitation of Big Data, using the example of automated driving and intelligent road traffic. It analyses current law and presents prospects for further development. The findings will be useful for developers and users and will also benefit legal practice and legislative initiatives.

Original title

Legal Challenges in Big Data. Allocating benefits. Averting risks

Project leaders

  • Prof. Sabine Gless, Juristische Fakultät, Universität Basel
  • Prof. Herbert Zech, Juristische Fakultät, Universität Basel



Further information on this content


Prof. Sabine Gless Juristische Fakultät Universität Basel Peter Merian-Weg 8
4002 Basel

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