Brain power

Will we ever be empowered with our own data?

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Data is the stock and trade of the digital economy today, with the standard business model being to offer free or marginal cost services to users in return for free access and ownership of the data they generate whilst using those services. This data is then monetized in a variety of ways.

This basic business model has helped tech giants across the world generate enormous profits, and there is a growing sense that the scales have tipped too far in their direction, and users should get a greater slice of the pie. This sense is exacerbated by the poor wage growth during this period, amidst suggestions that the economy is weighed heavily in favor of capital owners rather than wage earners.

A new report from the ODI [Open Data Institute], RSA [Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce] and Luminate attempts to explore whether giving people greater ownership of their data will be enough to tip the scales back in their favor.

“Recently, ‘data ownership’ has been raised by some as a possible way to give us control over the data about us,” the authors say. “But, given that data about us is rarely just about us as individuals, but usually about other people too – many have criticised ownership as an overly simplistic solution. Critics have said that instead we need to strengthen our ‘data rights’ and the responsibilities to maintain them, with a more systemic approach including legislation, regulation, policymaking, education, and advocacy.”

Bringing data to life

The researchers conducted focus groups with members of the public across the UK to understand how we feel about data, and especially how much control and ownership of our personal data we want.

As part of these sessions, a graphic was developed to help inform participants about the various types of data that exist. These different types, which include personal data, behavioral data and societal data, were then expanded into narratives to help bring them to life.

The authors believe that this approach not only allowed participants to gain a better understanding of data, but to see the various aspects that go into discussions around sharing and ownership of data.

“Sharing sensitive data about us so a company can target us with adverts is different from sharing societal data about us (data which should be aggregated and anonymised) so it can be used to improve public services for everyone,” the authors explain.

Relaxed approach

In the main, people were fairly relaxed and positive about the benefits the data-driven tools and websites they use on a regular basis bring to them and their life. What they were concerned about however is the relative lack of transparency involved in some of these transactions, whilst they would like to have more agency and control over how their data is used. Fairness is central to this debate, and they want greater compliance and enforceability of rules concerning data usage.

The notion that people are often ignorant of the way their data is generated and used is increasingly mistaken, and the report reminds us that people largely just want to be treated like people rather than robots where their data is concerned.

“As we’ve found in the course of our research, most people want to make a choice based on how they feel at a moment in time, and be able to change their minds when they feel differently,” the researchers conclude. “This nuance is often ignored or misinterpreted, particularly in quantitative research that is focused on people’s perceptions of data and the value-exchanges around it.”

The researchers hope that this campaign will initiate a broader conversation around data that will lead to a more equitable future. Check out the video below to learn more.

Article source: Will We Ever Be Empowered With Our Own Data?

Header image source: StockSnap on Pixabay, Public Domain.

Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and Work.com, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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