BBC Research & Development

The ethics of personal data?

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

Education and self-management?

Does data need managing and how do you educate people about the true value of their own data?


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Transcript: Education and self-management?


How do we make people more aware of their personal data?

Doc - We have two selves in the world at any given time now. We have the physical self, our flesh and blood, our voice, our presence in the world which extends beyond our bodies but lives in this physical space. There’s this other space, we started out calling cyber space a long time ago, but it’s a real thing. It’s a data space.

Julian - We are as people quite often data illiterate. We don’t realise the impact of what data has on our lives, we don’t realise what we’re giving away and we don’t realise the mechanisms that will enable us to re-empower ourselves in this environment.

Adrian - Security and privacy, they are issues, people do care about them and we need to, we should address them.

Alexandra - I think unfortunately at the minute we make people aware of their personal data when terrible things happen.

Aleks - It’s going to take personal experiences of falling over, some kind of truly horrific experience before people actually feel that they are compelled to be educated about this.

Alexandra - And I think there’s two pieces of data people feel very strongly about, one is healthcare, and the other one is banking. So if you touch those two areas, the reaction is extremely strong because they feel that it sort of, touches something that they should be in complete control of.

Doug - The internet is man made, and everything you put online is recoverable. There are world-class security experts, but there are still people who are stealing money from bank accounts.

Adrian - As technologists we have a duty to try and explain these things to people and to try and get across, you know, find ways to, to make it real and make it make sense and we need more examples and better education.

Julian - We need to create a more informed debate about data, especially the value of data. The value of data as individuals and the value of data aggregated.

What are the disadvantages of managing your own data?

Doc - Right now there’s more talk than ever about owning your own data because there are so many companies out there that are gathering data about us that we don’t own at all, that we don’t control at all.

Glyn - So if you’re trying to manage your own data, one of the problems with this is you don’t necessarily know what data you’re giving to other people. So, lacking information and lacking in any way of finding out that information.

Jon - So, I actually want it to be in the hands of agencies that are going to good with that that can maybe use my data in comparison to millions of other people’s data to find trends, or to find specifics about me. So, yeah we need it to be out there in order to make it work, and that’s where the tension comes in because as soon as I agree for it to be out there, and allow it to be worked on it’s a bit like having a house party when I was seventeen and said, everybody’s welcome. Well, they were until it got a bit out of hand and you know where that story goes.

Jeni - I think that, I think that there are very few people who are willing to sacrifice as much as it would actually take to not be monitored and surveilled at all.

What kind of help is available for people to manage their own data?

Jon - We need to move the debate beyond a discussion about what it could be in a commercial way into activity in the ordinary domestic world.

Alexandra - I think we should be educating people about data through building partnerships with the companies who are involved in selling those products.

Doug - I think we already have a middle man for open data in the institution that’s been recently created, the Open Data Institute, co founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Gavin Starkson, there’s some fantastic people there that have created an accreditation system.

Doc - What’s going to happen in the long run is that people will have control over their personal data because they’ll know better what to do it and the tools will exist for them to do more with it, with that data than these other companies could. It’s just like it was with personal computing.

Jon - And we need to kind of, mobilise a world task force of, of geeks (laughs) who like making stuff.

Doug - I don’t think we need technology businesses to, to sit there and vouch for people’s data. That, that seems to me an old way of doing things, I think, an open source approach with five star accreditation from the ODI seems a good way forward.

Doc - The trap not to fall in is the trap of fear right now, and we’re at a high point of fear thanks to Edward Snowdon, thanks to discovering what the NSA in the US has been doing, and what the GHCQ here has been doing.

Jason - If you can build a sneaking feature into a device, and you decide not to tell the user, you’ve decided to kind of break the law a bit, certainly in data protection terms, there’s a real risk that it’ll get found out.

Doc - This is a power we can use for good and evil and probably both, but we, it’s present in the world now and we have to figure out how to use it.