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The principle of data sovereignty is that data belongs to the jurisdiction of the nation-state where it is originally held in binary form. Data sovereignty helps to sort out many complicated issues about digital assets or how to regulate the flow of information online.
Essentially, data sovereignty principles hold that there is a single authentic origin of a piece of data, which consists of the country in which that data is primarily held. However, sorting this out is easier said than done in the age of the cloud and software as a service.
That's because these hardware abstraction architectures port data all over the place, all the time — often in real time – and that made can make it extremely hard to pinpoint the origin of the data and where it's coming from.
At the same time, one overarching need for data sovereignty research is the emergence of national proprietary privacy laws. Perhaps the most prominent example is Europe's General Data Protection Rule or GDPR, which came into play within the past couple of years.
The GDPR regulates the use of a European citizen’s private data, and data sovereignty may have a bearing on how that regulation is applied. That requires companies and other stakeholders to do various kinds of discovery to figure out who the data belongs to, and in what nation it originated.
Theoretically, an international set of regulations would do away with many of the requirements to figure out data sovereignty for a particular data set.