Critical Data Studies A Cross-College Collaboration

Glossary: Data Sovereignty

In the corporate technology sector data sovereignty often refers to the understanding that data which are stored outside of an organization’s host country and still subject to the laws in the country where the data are stored (Jeannot 2016). An example would be a Canadian cloud service provider that has their main office, including sales, marketing, accounting, and operations in Canada. However, their customer service call center is located in the UK. Certain personal information about accounts must be sent to the UK in order for them to contact clients and provide support. Data sovereignty is also a reference to a group or individual’s right to control and maintain their own data however they see fit, which includes the collection, storage, and interpretation of their data. Within the context of transnational indigenous sovereignty and self-determination movements, data sovereignty can be a powerful tool for those whom the data represents, which claims the rights of Indigenous peoples to use and interpret the data in a way that is accurate and appropriate given their circumstances, customs, and communal way of life (Smith 2016: 122). This is complex, for instance with oral traditions or DNA data, Indigenous individuals, families, sovereign nations, cultural groups and transnational networks of Indigenous people may be impacted. A common theme across these approaches to data sovereignty is when and how to collect, protect and share data with only those who have legitimate or appropriate need to access.



Smith, D.E. (2016). Governing data and data for governance: the everyday practice of Indigenous sovereignty, Ch. 7 in Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward an Agenda. p.  117-138.

Jeannot, Cedric. (2016). Current Issues in Data Sovereignty and Its Impact on Information Secruity. LinkedIn, 31 May 2016. Retreived from:

Student Editors: Sarahy Dueñas, CJ Bruns, Nate Garrison and Vishnu Kamagere. We would like to thank additional student editors who would like to remain anonymous for their contributions.