BBC Research & Development

The ethics of personal data?

The ethics of data in the era of the quantified self and the internet of things

What data is important to you?

The ethics of data use is something BBC R&D (along with many other people and organisations) takes very seriously. Privacy is not only important - it is a human right.

However the question remains, is there a middle ground that allows personal data to be kept secure and under the control of the individual, but still allows that data to be shared with others to deliver the benefits that processing and aggregating that data could offer? What are the implications when those ‘others’ aren’t just our friends or family but are sometimes business and large organisations?

The BBC’s public purposes include “delivering to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services” and the management of personal data is an area that will affect everyone. The use and misuse of that data has the power to both enrich and ruin people's lives.

We asked a number of smart people a series of questions about their use of personal data.

About the videos

The videos are meant to be debate-provoking and are not the opinions of the BBC or BBC R&D. We welcome your thoughts and opinions about them.

We are experimenting with a new video annotation system from Reframed.TV which enables commenting, video sharing and discussion on specific moments in the videos. However, all comments are pre-moderated and may be deleted if they do not meet the BBC blog house rules.

BBC R&D is seeking partners for further work into this critical area of the future internet.

Transcript: What data is important to you?

Paul - In terms of what I would regard as personal data, I guess it’s the, it’s my identity, things that relate specifically to me.

Adriana - It depends in what context, I want to analyse everything. What’s valuable to me, as in what I don’t want other people to have, privacy (unclear) nothing that I don’t share.

Aleks - I enjoy kind of, the sharing of personal data. I will throw data out there. Again, whether it’s Tweets or status updates or whatever. I’ll throw data out there, but the data that I throw out there, the data that I proactively flood the web with is always data that’s going to, in the end, make me look good. Right?

Julian - I give away far too much data, liberally. Everybody knows I’m here so…

Hwayoung - I like the select – selectively – be able to selectively let people know where I am otherwise I don’t want it.

Jason - I think a lot of manufacturers are into this real time location situation based information, and there’s a good transaction there, you’re essentially handing over your whereabouts and what you might be near to and things, they’re providing a service like you know, whether you’re going to get wet or not and things like that when you’re trying to get off the train.

Paul - When you meet somebody you choose what information to tell them and as you build up a relationship you might tell them more and more. But you don’t say, you hello, I’m Paul and I’m whatever age and I’m married with so many children. You don’t do that straight away, it would be more a relationship you evolve. And I think that’s in some way the problem we’re in at the moment is there’s no mutual exchange of data. You know, when I go to the supermarket they collect all my data, but they give me very little data about what they do with their money.

Jon - At the moment, I’m you know, as you can see, I’m pretty fit and healthy if I do say so myself. I don’t mind someone knowing my blood pressure or my pulse rate, I like that, slightly competitive, I might Tweet that I’ve been for a jog or if I’ve been jumping in the North Sea as I actually do quite a lot. But then is there a trend in my data, so what happens if I’ve been public with my health data, it reveals something about me that I didn’t know that I probably want to find out first before the rest of the world knows about it.

Aleks - You implicate other people in activities, behaviours, assumptions, when you put relational data online.

Hwayoung - I do have Four Square, but I usually use it to see if there’s somebody I want to avoid.

Julian - I’m not letting it concern me, because if I did think about it I would be overly concerned.

Jeni - It’s about personal risk assessment, right, about whether that information is ever so precious to me, which it isn’t, to an extent, when I know that it’s going into some anonymous data store. These are very personal choices, and I think that there should be the ability for everybody to make those personal choices.