Offering 'home' protection to private digital storage spaces

Jaap-Henk Hoepman, Bert-Jaap Koops

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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The law classically provides strong protection to whatever is inside a home. That protection is lost now that our photo albums, notes and other documents have become digital and are increasingly stored in the cloud. Even if their owner never intended these documents to be shared, their copies in the cloud may be accessed by law enforcement, under possibly lower conditions than apply to home searches. In this paper, we study this problem from a theoretical perspective, asking whether it is possible to establish home-equivalent legal protection of those private digital storage spaces (smartphones, private cloud storage accounts) that most closely resemble the home as a storage environment for private things. In particular, we study whether it is possible, using technological design, to clearly separate digital storage spaces that are used privately versus storage spaces used to share data with others. We sketch a theoretical architecture for such a ‘digital home’ that most closely resembles the physical home in terms of the space that is the most personal storage environment for private files. The architecture guarantees the data are indeed only stored for private use, and can never be shared with others unless the device used for storage itself is shared. We subsequently argue that the law should offer ‘home’ protection to data stored using this system, as an intermediate stepping-stone towards more comprehensive legal protection of cloud-stored data. Such protection is needed, since nowadays, not the home or the smartphone, but the smartphone/cloud ecosystem holds ‘the privacies of life’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-388
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2020


  • spatial privacy; informational privacy; home; digital devices; cloud; privacy by design


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