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BCS launches consultation on personal data exploitation

The British Computer Society announces a consultation on data use and reveals the results of a survey on how UK citizens feel about the collection of personal data

The majority of British citizens are unhappy with the ways companies collect and use data about them, and many (64%) feel as though they cannot do anything about it.

That is according to a survey by the British Computer Society (BCS), which revealed the results at the Personal Information Economy 2015: Growth Through Trust conference in London, organised by data consultancy Ctrl-Shift.

The BCS research is being published to coincide with what the society calls “the consultative stage of its personal data challenge” to encourages individuals and companies to collaborate around the future of personal data. BCS also said it will be hosting a workshop on the topic of data use on 8 February 2016.

YouGov conducted the online survey on behalf of BCS between 1 and 2 December 2015 and questioned 2,092 adults.

It found that just over a quarter of respondents said they understand companies need to collect personal data to provide services, and  are overall happy with how it works. Some 44% said though they would use a service where the supplier guaranteed the safety and security of their­­ personal data, as well as gave customers control over who has access to it and how it is used, they would not be willing to pay for it.

“Terms and conditions mean an ultimatum when we want a conversation. Vulnerable people can be hounded even by organisations they should have a positive relationship with. It feels that we can’t trust household names to look after or use our data as we’d want them to,” said David Evans, director of policy at BCS, in a statement.

“However, organisations are also carrying risks and frustrated by constraints, which isn’t good for business. Personal data is not working for anyone –we need to come together and fix it,” he added.

The BCS is launching what it calls a “consultation paper” to experts and interested parties. Evans said: “we’ve put out this challenge, and the first thing we want to do is get the community to test it and refine it.

“We want common currency and technical and legal systems to unlock the power and utility we know is possible when personal data is aggregated around individuals and organisations,” said Evans.

Alan Mitchell, a spokesperson for Ctrl-Shift, said: “Many different organisations collect data about their customers and use this data to run their operations better. The result of this approach is that individuals’ data is dispersed across hundreds, if not thousands, of different databases. As the survey shows, many people are questioning how brands use their data, and models are emerging that empower individuals to integrate their data from different sources and utilise it for their own purposes.”

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