- Veröffentlicht: 17. April 2017
How can the government reassure the public about how it is using personal data? Our online live chat got to the heart of the matter – here’s a roundup
We recently ran a livechat on the Guardian public leaders network, where our expert panellists discussed the government’s use of our personal data. Some of the topics included:
- How can governments best reassure their citizens that they are safeguarding their personal data?
- When trying to build public trust in how personal data is used by the government, are the barriers to building that trust to do with politics or technology?
- Which proven or future technical approaches will help governments link up data most safely.
- Whether this is fundamentally a political issue or a technical issue.
Here’s our roundup of the best bits from the live discussion, which was supported by KPMG: Where does public distrust of government and data come from?
There is an “oversight gap”, according to Michael Veale, a doctoral researcher at University College London’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP). There are trusted organisations in the voluntary sector – like Citizens Advice – which are well-placed to reassure the public, but they don’t have the funding or expertise to do so, he explained, noting rising costs and a scarcity of data experts.
Equally, our perceptions about risk are also often very off, added Lilian Edwards, professor of e-governance at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. We may lose privacy by degrees as much by using a supermarket loyalty card as disclosing health data, but we tend to be far more alert to health data sharing than what we give away in Tesco, said the professor, who is also an advisory board member of the Open Rights Group. “The risks around privacy disclosures are future and we are mainly only good at very short-term risk assessment.”
Philip Craig, government sector strategy director at Sopra Steria, added:
Hello. The issue around data sharing in the public sector is particularly hard to tackle. People see government as a big connected entity (even when it is not). And there is a lack of clarity about what is allowed and not allowed. This is partly to do with a lack of communication, particularly explaining the benefits to be experienced by sharing data. Although this is being addressed, to some extent, through the work of the National Cyber Security Centre.
The main barriers to trust are to do with culture and complexity, rather than technology, said Peter Wells, a policy associate at the the Open Data Institute.
“As a society we are still adjusting to impact of the internet, let alone the impact and potential created by the increased availability, and hence use, of data [...] Data is also quite context-specific,” he explained. How people react to use of health data in the NHS is quite different from how people react to use of location data by, say, Waze to help them avoid a queue of traffic. “Building trust in use of personal data by government is a hard problem because government uses data in so many different places.”
Liz Brandt, CEO of business consultancy Ctrl-Shift, shared some insights:
The evidence that we're starting to see is that Millennials are better equipped to manage their personal profile in a digital world, often using multiple profiles and are very aware of how data sharing can impact them. We also see that when people get more complicated lives - job, mortgage, family they have more data and they become more sensitive to the sharing and use of it.
Building trust – is it about politics or technology?
The government is often perceived by the public to be a seamless surveillance industry, noted Edwards. “This may or may not be true for the NSA but the overall reality is often of poorly managed out of date systems, and data with gaps and errors – it is more Fawlty Towers than Nineteen Eighty-Four.”
Historically, privacy and information rights haven’t been vote-getters so the money spent on enforcing data protection has been minimal, explained Edwards. “If people want better enforcement they should get it on the political agenda, find out their rights, complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office and their MP.”
Craig outlined that, ultimately, users of public sector digital services want to be sure of the following things:
- That they are disclosing their personal data securely.
- They are protected from fraudsters.
- They understand, and are happy with, how the data is being acquired and shared.
The key to building trust does comes down to both the politics and the tech, said Tom Symons, a principal researcher in the policy and research team at innovation foundation Nesta. “The politics of it needs to make sure people understand what data is held about them and how it can be used (and preferably why this can benefit them), and the technology needs to have a level of accountability and security which reassures people that legal responsibilities are being upheld.”
How might the government behave differently to build more trust and seem more ‘human’?
People are more likely to want to share data if their experience is personalised, said Craig. For example, a WPP report in 2015 suggested me.gov should be the next state in digital government services. Me.gov would be a holistic digital experience tailored to individual needs. The design would be driven by deeper, broader insight into how users feel about service experiences and how that drives outcomes. “And because the more the citizen reveals, the better their journey becomes, the incentive to share data is greater,” he explained.
Sarah Henry, who leads analytics and the data science agenda for Manchester city council and the Greater Manchester combined authority, went a step further:
Here's a provocative idea - we should go further than that. People who don't allow their data to be shared (in a safe and protected way, of course) shouldn't benefit from the outcomes of how that data was used. To my mind it's the equivalent of tax evasion. Most people agree that people who avoid paying tax shouldn't get services. So why is it OK to develop health care for example using my data, but not the data of the person who opts out but still wants the better service? Data is a public asset.
In terms of seeming more human, Veale added that government should be more frank about its experimentation and mistakes. “Rather than casting everything as a success, it should explain how it’s learning from ongoing failures,” he said. “This is a really tough political challenge, but we shouldn’t see failures as a reason to stop: we should see them as a reason to double down, learn and keep going.”
“We have to change our narrative and focus on how sharing benefits people. We haven’t traditionally been good at doing that. So that is a big cultural change that is required for public sector,” said Eric Applewhite, director of public sector technology and transformation for KPMG in the UK.
He added that transparency is key and is consistent with the “no surprises” mentality around information sharing that the public sector is being asked to deliver. Transparency extends to monitoring that public services are sharing data appropriately and sharing the results of that monitoring.
Applewhite also called for greater collaboration between government and the research community. “There are pockets of good collaboration but not enough. I think that kind of collaboration is crucial if we want to ask for permission to use data from a position of value to the citizen,” he said.
Quelle/Source: The Guardian, 10.04.2017