BBC Research & Development

The ethics of personal data?

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

Ownership and choice?

What is ownership, why do we need it and what hard choices lie ahead for us all?

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Transcript: Ownership and choice?

What is the Quantified Self?

Adriana - The quantified self is that, is the living, breathing part of the web or the technology scene where people genuinely care about data.

Jeni - Who are constantly measuring things like their sleep patterns or their eating patterns or their exercise patterns.

Adriana - It’s an app called emotion sense and it records your moods. I learnt that I’m actually happier than I feel (laughs) the data is telling me, you know, I feel more positive than I feel.

Jeni - The types of things that people should be doing with their data is looking at it in order to question about how they can change what they’re doing in order to achieve the outcomes that they want to achieve, whether that’s being happier or sleeping better or losing weight faster or whatever it is.

Doc - You have your fitbit data, your digifit data, your (unclear) scale data, your sleep data and some other thing. All of these are in silos, they’re all in other company’s clouds, they’re not yours. You have access to them, but you can’t integrate them yet.

Adriana - Fitbit was useful for about two weeks where I was using it and I looked at the stats and I refreshed I thought, oh that’s exciting, you know, I’ve done ten thousand steps. And after two weeks you’re thinking, what does it actually mean?

Doc - All of these things need to be integrated and it’s best if we do it, it’s personal. So, personal clouds are going to be far more important than cooperate clouds, but what’s going to happen with personal clouds is the same thing that happened with personal computing. Personal computing was absurd at one point, it was an oxy – excuse me – an oxymoron, that only companies, only institutions did computing, people didn’t do computing. Well, now they do, that’s the primary form of computing. The primary clouds are going to be personal clouds.

How do you feel about cloud based systems?

Doc - I believe the first to use it a lot was, was Amazon with the elastic cloud services. And it simply meant a back end server than did computing for you or a back end storage that did storage for you.

Adrian - If you’re building the devices it makes it much easier to have a cloud service because you can do more stuff with it, you can add new features and functionality.

Glyn - It becomes even more of an issue when you have more and more applications on your phone not necessarily from people you trust quite as much and what is hilarious is large numbers of people that would just say yes, and it asks for every permission known to man including lots of stuff that if you really thought about it you’d say no.

Paul - Data is now given a value by other organisations, so that there’s an encouragement for them to take ownership of that data.

Jeni - Obviously if those providers have their serves based in America there through the Patriot Act then it’s quite possible for any of that data to be pulled out at any time.

Doug - I see how the internet has affected the local business community and I see the cloud as the business community going online.

What are your thoughts on End User Licence Agreements?

Alexandra - I think an end user licence agreement is a prenuptial agreement essentially for the digital world.

Glyn - They are not designed to be read, in fact in many ways they’re designed not to be read and what they’re really saying is please don’t sue us, please don’t sue us, we can do anything we want.

Adriana - Most people wouldn’t necessarily understand, because their legal and legal language has nothing to do with normal language.

Aleks - It’s a different kind of English. It doesn’t make any sense, people don’t think about it, just click through, just click through, just get to the experience. It’s, it’s an impediment. It’s just in the way.

Adriana - If you cannot reject them, if you cannot actually say well, I’m fine with that but not with that, what’s the point?

Alexandra - It does not allow for real dialogue between a consumer and the provider of a service.

Jason - If you spent five hundred pounds on a device, and you connect it up and it presents you with a licence agreement to agree to and you’ve unboxed it all and everything, you know, there’s going to be a certain amount of reluctance on your part to say, actually I’m not too keen on that bit there, I think I’m just going to sling it all back in the box and send it back to the shop.

Doc - We look at out iPhone or our Android phone and it says, our terms have changed, read out fifty-five page document and click accept. In law, those are called contracts of adhesion. What they mean is that one party is required to adhere to it where the other party can change whatever they want.

Jason - It’s a bit like if you bought a luxury car and ten months after you bought it you know, the chap from the, you know, the sales chap turns up and says, right I’m going to paint a (unclear) label all over it and we’re going to reduce the speed to forty miles an hour if you don’t agree.

Glyn - Even if you were conscientious and you had no time, you know, you spend all of your time reading the agreements, you were really boring and you understood lawyer, you wouldn’t know a tenth of what the data was going back and forth so I wouldn’t even say it would be very productive.

Alexandra - In a way it acts as a barrier for innovation, I think, because once you could let, if you could let people really choose which piece of the agreement they’d like to sign, they might have a relationship with the service that’s very different and very rich actually.

Adriana - Now you could say, maybe if we all read them, and become more away and then create some kind of pressure on those companies, then yes it could happen.

Aleks - I know that there are some people who are also trying to you know, educate kids about end user licence agreements and getting them to write their ideal bill of rights, as it were, for free using an object. And so there are attempts to kind of, make them comprehensible.

Doug - For me, it’s safety first, and the irritation of being asked if I can, you know, whether they can access my data it’s a small inconvenience compared to the alternative.