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Personal data empowerment: Time for a fairer data deal

29 April 2015

Personal data issues have risen in complexity and scale over the last 5-10 years. Aggregation, sharing and analysis are becoming readily available to organisations and individuals via new tools and services. There are opportunities for consumers to apply insight from personal data to become more empowered, as well as exercise their rights to privacy and control.

Yet the personal data explosion brings huge risks too, and campaigners are all too often left playing catch up with the powerful companies who are pushing at the boundaries with new developments and dominating the conversation about our understanding of consumer attitudes and responses to change.

The attention of consumer and privacy advocates has rightly been focused on identifying and mitigating risks, and we wholeheartedly support the resolute consumer advocacy during the negotiation process over EU data protection regulations, making sure crucial lines are held and key protections are strengthened.

However, while focusing on mitigating current risks, we must not lose sight of the potential for consumers to utilise and share their data in new ways to unlock value and enable better outcomes.

Our work with consumers, businesses and regulators makes us acutely aware that a new vision for personal data empowerment, built around consumer attitudes and values, is required. The key factors driving this are:

  • disillusionment with the status quo and lack of faith in the notice and consent model to reassure trust
  • ties to the dominant business model of data gathering and sale as the only way to run digital services

  • the potential for data to empower consumers towards better outcomes

  • the consumer appetite for data sharing under particular conditions

  • the complexities of consumer attitudes towards privacy and personal data, and the lack of means to express this

  • low awareness of more imaginative ways to control and manage personal data.

We feel that now is the right time to articulate a fresh vision of personal data empowerment: one that sees the value of data shared more evenly amongst both the consumers who generate data and the organisations that use it; one that balances safeguards with the ability to innovate and one that contributes towards a more stable personal data ecosystem that better serves consumers in the 21st century.

This report will present an analysis of the data-driven economy from a consumer perspective, together with the results of qualitative research undertaken with leading thinkers, regulators, policy makers and practitioners, and an analysis of new emerging trends in personal data empowerment.