The Data Sharing Review from Richard Thomas and Mark Walport brings a breath of fresh air to a feotid debate. Now comes the campaign to prevent the recommendations from being obfuscated and watered down by those who do well out of the current confusion as well as those making serious money from the acquisition, aggregation and resale of personal data without informed consent, let alone choice, on the part of the subject. .
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But who can we trust to do this?
I recently blogged on the Economist fieldwork on civil liberties and have just re-read their survey on “Anglo-Saxon Attitudes” : comparing the results from parallel exercises in UK and the US. Among the areas of similarity are that we both distrust local politicians (54% UK and 57% US) considerably LESS than we mistrust national politicians (72% UK and 76% US), or Journalists (76% and 62%). By contrast 2/3rds trust judges and 4/5 trust doctors. But nearly as many Britons mistrust public officials (54%) as mistrust those running large businesses (60%). The gap is consderably narrower than in the US (52% and 67%) but is a corrective to those who believe we Briton trust our bureaucrats operate in our interest, not theirs.
There are other interesting differences, including on religion and foreign policy, but one of the most relevent is the high concern of Britons over Crime (49% place it amng their top three concerns, beaten only by immigration at 60%, compared to only 13% of Americans). Terrorism comes fifth, behind the Economy and Health Care.
Juxtaposing such data with the recent rash of reports on infotmation assurance and service delivery, my personal conclusion is that Governments will survive, but those in the private sector who wish to still be in business when the recession ends must be seen to be in the forefront of implementing the recommendations in the Data Sharing Review review. They must also do so in ways which make good, profitable, business sense..
Being seen to help lead the way into a world in which data is shared in accordance with the wishes of well-informed customers should be seen as a matter of competitive advantage, perhaps even of corporate survival, not one of “mere” corporate social responsibility, let alone a regulatory compliance overhead.
And if the customers do not care and put their msot personal infomratin on an insecure social network, that should be their choice – but it must be an informed choice and they should have the opportunity to change their mind – even if it means losing “free” services and a complex data deletion exercise.
And for those who say that you cannot change your mind once your data has escaped – I would point to the increasing use of name changes in order to “slough off” compromised identities and reputations – corporate as well as personal. And that raises the plight of that 20% of the UK population with criminal records that are trivial and time expired – unless they wish to run a play group or visit the United States.
The debates over identity management and privacy wil run and run, and at heart is the question of who we can trust to manage the issues politically – including regulatory structures and legal responsbilities and liabilities.
Those who stand in the way of speedy and effective implementation of the recommendations of the Data Sharing review on Data Aharing should be judged accordingly..