Moneyball in the Era of Biometrics: Who Has Ownership Rights Over the Biometric Data of Professional Athletes?
The 2003 release of Michael Lewis’s book, Moneyball, brought into the mainstream a new paradigm for professional sports management: the use of statistical analysis to identify currently undervalued athletes in an effort to gain a competitive advantage. This pressure to accurately value athletes has led, in part, to the widespread collection of professional athletes’ biometric data. While biometric data can create many benefits, its misuse can lead to detrimental outcomes for the athletes, including inequitable contract negotiations, loss of potential revenue from monetization of said data, and a loss of privacy. Thus, this paper seeks to determine who holds the ownership rights over biometric data collected from professional athletes. I argue that the question of ownership is unanswered by the collective bargaining agreements and standard player contracts for professional sports leagues in North America, as well as by the Personal Health Information Protection Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. I turn to the precedent set by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding ownership of patient medical records to conclude that ownership rights over the biometric data belong to the party collecting such data, and not the athletes themselves. Nevertheless, the collective bargaining agreements and relevant legislation afford athletes some protections against the misuse of their biometric data.