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People want to know the "why, how, when and what" of data use

A new study reveals that people generally feel positive about the internet and being connected but want to have more say in how their data is used.

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People want to be able to decide how their data is shared
People want to be able to decide how their data is shared

While people generally feel positive about the benefits brought by the internet and being more connected, they want to know why, how, when and for what purpose data about themselves is held and shared, finds a new study.

 

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), the Open Data Institute (ODI) and the philanthropic group, Luminate, have explored how members of the UK public feel regarding data about themselves, having ownership or rights around it, and what kind of control or protection they feel is missing or needs strengthening.

 

It carried out the research over two focus groups and a workshop.

 

Greater transparency and control

 

Writing on its website, the RSA urges people to think differently about data, and the rights and responsibilities around it. It also wants to help people better understand the different types of data, which it puts into four groups: personal data, sensitive data, behavioural data and societal data.

 

As part of the study, it tested and developed “compelling” narratives to help people understand and explore these different types of data in context. “We did this because we saw it can be hard for people to decide how they feel about sharing data about them, without being able to consider the different elements or ways it is used,” wrote the RSA.

 

“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 study reveals that people want greater honesty and transparency, agency and control, rights and responsibility, context and fairness, and compliance and enforceability over how data about them is used. “Ultimately, they want to know that where data is concerned they will be treated as people, not as robots,” said the RSA.

 

The research paper also explains that people want to be asked to ‘opt in’, not ‘opt out’ of data being collected and used. They said they are happy to share data about them for societal benefits, but want to understand and have a say in what it is used for. They want to be able to decide how data about them is shared, and have the freedom to change their minds.

 

Unhappy with filtering

 

Emphasising the importance of context and fairness, people said they are uncomfortable with data about them being used in automated decision-making that makes assumptions about who they are based on how they behave. They do not want the news they see to be automatically filtered based on presumptions about what they are interested in.

 

Those who participated in the study expressed concern that the value of data sharing is felt more by companies than themselves and want companies to take greater responsibility for honestly communicating what is happening to data about them. They also want governments to regulate and enable this, that regulation should not be financially motivated, and that it should be overseen by independent bodies like commissioners or ombudsmen.

 

The RSA states that contrary to the assumptions often made around public awareness, many people said they understand the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and want them to be strengthened. They see it as a helpful structure of rights and responsibilities for their data lives.

 

To read the full research paper, go to About Data About Us

 

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