Why are we doing this?
Government, companies and charities collect ever more data about our personal habits, conversations and activities. From supermarket reward points to rainfall data, the economic and social value of massive data collection has accrued to large organisations with the power to analyse it.
Sometimes these powers can leave us feeling uncomfortable. The accelerometer in a smartphone data trails its carrier’s activity levels. Car insurance companies now offer the option to install driving safety monitors. As more personal data has entered corporate and government databases, more of us have become conscious of the data we produce about ourselves.
We are moving from organisations to individuals as data owners. This is driven by changing consumer expectations, regulatory responses as well as technology.
High-profile data leaks and IT failures have motivated new kinds of services. Patients Know Best started because the founders felt that a centralised NHS system did not serve their needs. CitizenMe pulls data from an individual’s various online profiles, exposing their digital personality and making it easier to change privacy settings.
What are we doing?
This is an ongoing area of interest for Nesta. Several of our Hot Topics events covered personal data collection, particularly Hack Yourself in 2012 and Biometrics in 2014. Our Dr Know report looked at the potential value of a healthcare system that uses information from a wide range of sources.
We held a workshop examining six health data futures, including different ways of managing personal data. This complemented Geoff Mulgan’s prediction for 2014 as a year of people powered data and built directly on Louise Marston’s idea that new services will emerge to improve our lives based on the data we give away every day.
The research team at Nesta are interested in better understanding policy, business model and technology innovations that will be key to the responsible development of a personal data economy. There is a careful balance to be struck between empowering people to make decisions over their own data and encouraging new businesses that make the most of this rich resource.
By engaging directly with those at the cutting edge of personal data management, Nesta hopes to become a champion of best practices that are both responsible and profitable.