IGA Tradeshow: Tribal data at risk if not secured through sovereignty

March 30, 2023 5:45 PM

IGA Tradeshow: Tribal data at risk if not secured through sovereignty

Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
March 30, 2023 5:45 PM
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports

It seems like a simple and straightforward question: Do tribes have control of their data?

The quick response would be: Tribes created the data, so of course they control it.

But that might not be entirely accurate. Tuesday during the session “Five Steps to Protecting Your Tribal Data Sovereignty” at the Indian Gaming Association Tradeshow & Convention in San Diego, panelists warned that data could be subject to the whims of various governmental agencies.

“When I was researching this, I was kind of surprised to find that 555 government agencies, federal government agencies, have the right to investigate and seize date,” said Andrew Cardno, co-founder and chief technology officer for Quick Custom Intelligence. “Five hundred and fifty-five – you can’t even list them all, there are so many. It’s like the government of the United States has given all of its agencies the right to investigate and seize data.”

Cardno added, “If (data) is on sovereign land, it’s a different discussion. So then, how do you protect it?”

Steve Bodmer, general counsel for the Pechanga Tribal Government in California, said the issue of sovereignty is critical to protecting data for tribes. When online services are discussed, he noted, one of the first issues revolves around ownership.

“That’s been the discussion for everything your database is and the value it brings,” Bodmer said. “So why are we not treating all data similarly? And then the question becomes, if you have a choice not to put your information somewhere else, would you take it? And that leads to the question, what are those choices? Are there options in Indian Country to have your data on sovereign lands under yours or even another tribe’s jurisdiction? We should be more concerned with who has our data and what they can do with it.”

Bodmer posed a hypothetical example of what might happen if Nevada issued a subpoena for tribal data stored on servers in the state. Could Nevada legally demand and gain access to information that might include intramural governmental documents and enrollment information?

“We don’t and won’t know know until it’s tested,” Bodmer said.

Moderator Buddy Frank, a CDC Gaming Reports contributor, asked the panel if the huge amounts of data tribes generate will require cloud storage and if so, how will that data be protected?

Stasi Baron, COO for nQube Data Science in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, noted that she has encountered situations when servers are located in multiple jurisdictions.

“We have to be able to navigate that when we’re working with sensitive and financial data,” Baron said, “especially when there’s a lot of red tape to navigate to secure that data securely. But you encounter these situations where there are going to be missed opportunities, because you don’t want to store your data in the cloud.”

Baron added that gone are the days when users could simply download software and store data on personal computers. The use of internet-based services, including Microsoft Suite and Amazon Web Services, require a certain amount of cloud storage.

“You no longer have options to just run (data storage) off your computer,” Bodmer said. “They’re not even offering or supporting those types of systems any longer.

“So the tribal component I’m watching is, why are we not being strategic about this? Some things will be with Microsoft, some with Amazon. That’s just the way it’s going to be. However, what can we take control of, how can we protect that, and why are we not being more strategic and forward thinking and creating laws that will govern that, that will be in place by the time legal challenges come?”

“You’ll be able to say, ‘Here is how we handled this five years ago when we knew this was coming,’ and be prepared for that moment.”

Rege Behe is lead contributor to CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at rbehe@cdcgaming.com. Please follow @RegeBehe_exPTR on Twitter.