The poll shows that data attitudes are shifting: two in five (41 per cent) polled say they have changed their online habits as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and three quarters (75 per cent) say they are concerned about the privacy of their personal data on the internet. Five per cent say they have left Facebook in the wake of Cambridge Analytica.

But, at the same time, the poll showed 72 per cent of people have ‘blindly’ accepted recent GDPR updates to terms and conditions of online platforms they use - like Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter - without reading the updates. A quarter (25 per cent) said that, while they know GDPR is happening, they don’t know the details and nearly one in ten (9%) said they haven’t heard of GDPR.

GDPR takes some positive steps, from ‘data protection by design’ to ‘data portability’ and ‘right to erasure’. But, Nesta argues, we need innovations which help us unlock the untapped social value of data: from opting in to share anonymised health data to aid medical research, to movement and sentiment data to help planners improve the places we live, work and travel. This requires empowering people with their personal data, so that they can decide who can see their data, and for which purposes.

Nesta warns today that while regulation is central, without innovation to give citizens more control over their own data, we will not rebalance the data economy away from the tech giants.

Nesta found evidence that there is significant public appetite to share personal data for the common good, but we currently lack the tools which enable people to do this securely. For instance, 73 per cent of people said they would share their personal data in an effort to improve public services if there was a simple and secure way of doing it (this figure jumped to 79 per cent among 18-24 year olds and fell to 68 per cent among 55- 64 year olds).

Tom Symons, senior researcher at Nesta says, “Data is rightfully a hot topic: who owns it and who has the right to use it and to sell it. The flames of public awareness and concern have been fanned by the Cambridge Analytica scandal and now GDPR. Nesta wants to see data innovation that puts individuals in control of their data, and gives them the opportunity to share it for the public good.

“We need a fair data economy that works for everyone: giving individuals the tools to choose how their data is used, so that new products and services can be developed in response.”

Nesta is pursuing this vision, through the DECODE project, a consortium of 14 European partners developing technologies (such as the blockchain(1) and advanced cryptography) to give people better control of their data. This starts by giving people the ability to set rules about who can access their data, for which purposes and on which terms. Pilots in Barcelona are testing new cooperative approaches to solving common urban problems. For example, tracking noise levels and improving access to digital democracy platforms.

For more information contact:

Juliet Grant in the Nesta media team: [email protected] / +44 (0) 20 7438 2668

  • Ends -


  1. Blockchain is a technology which enables an exchange of money or other resources to happen without the need for a trusted middleman. Blockchains are digital records of all previous exchanges, meaning proof of ownership or provenance can be checked automatically and electronically to give trust to each side of the transaction.

Notes to editors:

-Populus interviewed a Nationally Representative sample of 2,094 UK adults aged 18+ from its online panel from the 16-17th May 2018. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For more details go to

-About DECODE: DECODE (DEcentralised Citizen Owned Data Ecosystems) is a European Commission funded project to explore and pilot new technologies that give people more control over how they store, manage and use personal data generated online. DECODE is led by the Technology and Innovation Office at the city of Barcelona and delivered by a consortium of multidisciplinary partners - including, the Institut Municipal d'Informatica de Barcelona, Eurecat and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunta from Spain, Amsterdam City Council, Dyne, Stichting Katholieke Universiteit and the Waag Society in the Netherlands, Politecnico di Torino from Italy, CNRS from France, Arduino from Sweden, and innovation foundation Nesta, Thingful, ThoughtWorks and UCL from the UK.

About Nesta:

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. Find out more about Nesta.

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

Part of