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Less than a third of Brits trust local authorities to use personal data ethically

Banks are more trusted to use personal data ethically than local authorities. Further, just seven per cent would trust public transport providers.

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A new study from the Open Data Institute (ODI) finds that 87 per cent of British people feel it is important that data about them is used ethically, but they don’t trust most public and private organisations to do so – including local authorities, utility companies, telcos and public transport providers.

 

Just 31 per cent trust their local authority to use personal data ethically – less than those who would trust a bank or building society (42 per cent). Just seven per cent would trust public transport providers.

 

Almost six in ten – 59 per cent – trust the NHS and healthcare providers to use personal data ethically – the only type of organisation trusted by over half of those surveyed. Emergency services were second-most trusted at 47 per cent.

 

Regulation

 

Others falling below the 50 per cent mark are: central government (30 per cent); utility providers (18 per cent); family and friends (34 per cent); online retailers (10 per cent) and social media organisations (5 per cent). 14 per cent don’t trust any of these organisations to use their personal data ethically.

 

Almost six in ten – 59 per cent – trust the NHS and healthcare providers to use personal data ethically – the only type of organisation trusted by over half of those surveyed.

 

Almost half (44 per cent) feel that the government and regulators should be most responsible for making sure personal data is handled ethically.

 

Jeni Tennison, CEO at the Open Data Institute, said: “The survey shows us that people quite rightly expect organisations to use personal data ethically. Organisations need to respond to their concerns and be more trustworthy in how they collect and use personal data. This is not only the right thing to do; it will help organisations to keep benefiting from the data they rely on and retain the trust of their customers and employees.

 

“Talking about using data ethically is not enough, organisations need to publicly demonstrate how they do this in order to build trust.”

 

What is ethical use of personal data?

 

Opinion on the type of data collection and acceptable use varies. An average of 13 per cent of people are comfortable to share behavioural data, such as social media likes or travel patterns, in exchange for a personalised public service, but this varies from 22 per cent in the 25-34 age group to eight per cent of those over 55. A fifth of those over 55 did not want to share any of the data type listed (behavioural, personal, sensitive data such as sexual orientation/race, community data including crime statistics and environmental data including air quality) with local authorities to receive a personalised service, compared to eight per cent of those aged 18-24.

 

Around a quarter felt that organisations providing information about any payments they receive for sharing personal data would be an indication of using personal data ethically.

 

Over half of people (52 per cent) felt that if organisations only collect the necessary personal data to provide a service, that would indicate ethical use of personal data. Around a quarter felt that organisations providing information about any payments they receive for sharing personal data would be an indication of using personal data ethically. In addition, 13 per cent thought that ethical data use would be indicated if organisations share personal data with the UK government to improve public services, or with researchers to develop insights.

 

Local authority data use

 

In terms of local authorities collecting aggregated data to improve public services, 51 per cent support the use of data from air quality sensors. Further, 40 per cent would be happy for data from surveys about behaviour to be used and 36 per cent would be comfortable with survey data about their preferences. Over a third (35 per cent) would accept local authorities using data about how they use online services provided by the council but just 10 per cent would be happy about data being collected on how they use non-government services, such as ride-sharing.

 

A fifth said they’d be comfortable with pictures of vehicle licence plates from traffic cameras but only 11 per cent with CCTV images.

 

Only three per cent think collecting data about mobile phone movements is acceptable. Similarly, just four per cent support the use of data about online searches or social media posts.

 

The full dataset is published here under an open licence.

 

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