Against ‘Against Data Exceptionalism’

Dan Svantesson


The April 2016 issue of the Stanford Law Review (Volume 68, Issue 4) contains an interesting article by Assistant Professor Andrew Keane Woods. In that article, titled ‘Against Data Exceptionalism’, Woods seeks to challenge the view that the nature of data is incompatible with existing territorial notions of jurisdiction. He argues that the nature of data is not unique, and that existing jurisdictional principles rooted in territoriality can be applied to data.

This is my response to his claims. I argue that Woods fails to refute ‘data exceptionalism’, and that his description of relevant jurisdictional issues is based on a misunderstanding leading to a conflation of different jurisdictional questions.


Data Exceptionalism, Territoriality, Jurisdiction, Data Privacy, Internet Law

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[1] Clopton, Z. D. 2016. Data Institutionalism: A Reply to Andrew Woods, Stanford Law Review Online, vol. 69, pp. 1-9.

[2] Daskal, J., Woods, A. K. Cross-Border Data Requests: A Proposed Framework, Lawfare November 24, 2015. Available from: cross-border-data-requests-proposed-framework

[3] Goldsmith, J. L. 1998. Against Cyberanarchy, The University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 65, no. 4, pp. 1199-1250. DOI: 10.2307/1600262

[4] Johnson, D. R., Post, D. 1996. Law and Borders—The Rise of Law in Cyberspace, Stanford Law Review, vol. 48, no. 5, pp. 1367-1402. DOI: 10.2307/1229390

[5] Post, D. 2002. Against ‘Against Cyberanarchy’, Berkeley Technology Law Journal, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 1365-1388.

[6] Svantesson, D. J. B. 2015. A New Jurisprudential Framework for Jurisdiction: Beyond the Harvard Draft: Comment on “A New Jurisprudential Framework for Jurisdiction”, American Journal of International Law Unbound, vol. 109, pp. 69-74.

[7] Svantesson, D. J. B. 2014. The Extraterritoriality of EU Data Privacy Law - Its Theoretical Justification and Its Practical Effect on U.S. Businesses, Stanford Journal of International Law, vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 53-102.

[8] Woods A. K. 2016. Against Data Exceptionalism, Stanford Law Review, vol. 68, no. 4, pp. 729-790.

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