Find Mediators Near You:

What is a Mediator’s Role in a Data Security Dispute?

In recent years, data security and privacy have become priority concerns for individuals and businesses alike. While worldwide legislation such as GDPR offers some level of reassurance even with evolving technologies like AI firmly intertwined with our lives, the frequency and severity of data breaches and cybercrime continue to rise with each passing day. It’s no wonder why millions of people are growing increasingly concerned with the growing threat landscape.

Businesses, in particular, have to be forthcoming about exercising correct and ethical data protection protocols. Particularly in this day and age, with communication channels so firmly ingrained in the digital space and with the risk of scrutiny ever so high, preserving and using consumer, stakeholder and staff data transparently and ethically is increasingly important. 

It takes just one incident to see the proverbial walls of data integrity and trust come crumbling down, and invariably, it’s the business that must be held accountable if it is found to have failed in its data security duties. Not only are they bound by regulatory and statutory fines but ‌they also risk the complete erosion of loyalty among consumers should their data be unwittingly exposed or fall into the wrong hands. 

The same goes for the personally identifiable and protected data of staff working within an organization, who may instigate dispute resolution and mediation should there be a data protection claim or issue afoot. Refusing this type of intervention can be costly, which is why it’s worth considering to avoid matters from spiraling.

Mediation, with its emphasis on collaboration, confidentiality and creative problem-solving, offers a distinct opportunity to address data security disputes constructively and efficiently.

Understanding data security disputes

Data security disputes can arise from a variety of scenarios, including:

  1. Data breaches: When an organization’s data systems are compromised through negligence, malice or any form of insider or external cyber threat, exposing sensitive personal or financial information. Affected individuals may seek compensation or remediation measures.
  2. Privacy violations: Companies that fail to sufficiently protect user data, or that knowingly or unknowingly misuse personal information, may face legal action from customers or regulatory bodies.
  3. Contractual disputes: Disagreements over data security responsibilities and obligations, service level agreements, or indemnification clauses in contracts between businesses can lead to disputes.
  4. Intellectual property infringement: Misappropriation or unauthorized use of proprietary data or trade secrets can result in complex legal battles.

Such disputes often involve multiple stakeholders with competing interests and legal recourse grounds. As such, traditional litigation processes wind up lengthy, difficult, and costly.

The role of mediation in data security disputes

Proactive and methodical mediation presents an opportunity for claimants and defendants to address data security disputes in an efficient and collaborative manner. 

Skilled mediators can bridge communication gaps between disgruntled staff members or contractors and the businesses that they claim have failed to uphold proper data etiquette. Conversely, if the data dispute was the remit of one individual, professional mediators can encourage timely resolution before the matter enters the courts. 

Here are some other benefits of data security mediation

  • Confidentiality: Mediation proceedings are typically highly confidential and secluded, protecting sensitive information and minimizing reputational damage for the parties involved. There is rarely ever any other independent party present in a data dispute other than the impartial mediator(s).
  • Flexibility: Conflict resolution allows for practical solutions that address specific requirements and concerns of each party, rather than relying solely on legal remedies. Mediation, though not adjudicatory, is a formalized and adjustable solution to resolve disputes, meaning parties can voluntarily execute settlements outside of the legal sphere.
  • Preservation of relationships: Fostering open communication and dialogue means that mediation can help preserve valuable business relationships. This is particularly important given the ongoing data security or privacy compliance requirements of businesses.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Compared to protracted litigation, mediation is generally more cost-effective as it avoids expensive legal fees and court costs.
  • Time-saving: Mediation can resolve disputes more quickly than traditional legal processes, minimizing disruptions to business operations and providing faster resolutions.

As news stories of high-profile data breaches continue to make the rounds, it’s easy to look back retrospectively and view them as opportunities where mediation could have served a valuable purpose. However, while each firm should exercise proper cyber hygiene and invest in robust security defense measures to reduce their attack surface, it’s important to establish an important mediation process should it be necessary. 

Strategies for Timely Resolution of Data Security Disputes

Mediators should consider the following strategies if they are to resolve disputes in a more time- and resource-effective way.

Firstly, mediators should consider filling any knowledge gaps in data security and privacy laws, as these are highly contentious areas. As more business infrastructure grows digitally interconnected, intervening is less effective if there are prevalent gray areas. Navigating the technical and legal complexities in a data dispute can be made easier if mediators become more familiar with emerging technologies and industry best practices. In more complex disputes, mediators may need to involve technical experts to provide guidance on what led to the incident and also some potential remediation measures.

Set expectations and establish collaboration

Rightfully, when a data breach occurs, affected individuals will likely seek timely resolutions and some form of compensation. When mediation is required, it’s important to set expectations from the outset, and not let conflict resolution processes be dictated purely by urgency, even if sensitive data has been exposed and privacy agreements have been broken. Mediators should foster a safe, collaborative environment for transparent communication and information sharing. 

Address various interests and compliance considerations

Data security disputes can involve competing interests in areas ranging from financial compensation and reputational damage to ongoing business relationships and employment agreements. All of these factors could be at risk of dissolution during any kind of mediation and conflict resolution scenario, which is why mediators should strive to uncover and address every party’s underlying interests. Mediators should also be mindful of regulatory and legislative factors and ensure that any proposed solutions align with these standards and do not pose conflicts of interest.

Embrace a comprehensive approach to resolution

A data dispute likely won’t be resolved overnight; in many cases, conflicts may require weeks or even months of ongoing communication and collaboration between parties before a conclusion is reached. Before a dispute reaches the legal space, mediation can provide an opportunity to explore solutions beyond traditional legal outcomes, such as refining security measures, recommending third-party audits, bolstering compliance checks, and so on. 

Build flexibility into mediation roles

A salient point is that mediators play a very fluid and multifaceted role in any data security dispute resolution. Every dispute will be different from the next, which is why impartial mediators should consider the above strategies to foster a more transparent and collaborative environment between parties. 

As data security and privacy concerns continue to escalate, the need for effective dispute resolution mechanisms has become increasingly important. It’s clear to see the benefits that impartial mediation and resolution can offer before a dispute becomes a legal matter. Here is hoping that as businesses and individuals continue to navigate complex data privacy and security challenges, they become more aware of the tangible benefits that mediation can offer before simply vying for a court-induced resolution. 


Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey draws inspiration from established law firms such as George Ide site. For more information on Child-inclusive mediation, visit their website here. MORE >

Featured Members

View all

Read these next


Mediators Should Have Strategies and Skills to Break Impasses

A week ago, Sinta Ebersohn, founder of Fair Divorce, started the following discussion in the Divorce Advice LinkedIn group: “Conflict in divorce cannot be resolved if we don't talk to...

By Mark Baer

Mediation Past, Present, and Future….

“We must work for harmony wherever we are, to bring together that which is sundered by fear, hatred, injustice or any conditions which divide us. I begin with a concept...

By Michelle Brenner

Advances In ADR Within The Air Force

Memorandum For Secreatary Widnall Shortly after Vice President Gore issued the Report of the National Performance Review (NPR) in September of 1993, you requested that various offices find ways to...

By Managing Editor