89% of people think they should have control of their data – BCS calls for action to make this a reality

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Some 89% of people in Great Britain think they should be able to control what data a company collects about them online, and what it uses this data for, according to findings from a YouGov online survey on behalf of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. Yet this is not the reality of people's day to day experience.

The findings come as the Institute launches the consultative stage of its personal data challenge to encourage individuals and organisations to come together and shape the future of personal data. The launch is taking place at The Personal Information Economy 2015: Growth Through Trust conference, organised by specialist consultancy Ctrl-Shift.

David Evans, Director of Policy at BCS explains: "Every day we are presented with the stark contrast between how personal data affects us and what we want, both as individuals and organisations. We've become used to it, but when we reflect on it, things simply aren't right.

"Terms and conditions mean we're given 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 big household names to look after or use our data as we'd want them to. Yet organisations are also carrying risks and frustrated by constraints, and that isn't good for business. Personal data is not working for anyone; we need to come together and fix it."

BCS is today starting that process by launching a consultation paper to experts and interested parties outlining the societal goals. The paper proposes three essential personal data principles: safety, integration and relationships.

David says: "Lots of people are talking about these problems, some people are working on smart ways to solve them, and everyone is suffering from the issues. However, these conversations are often disconnected, and lack a shared sense of purpose. We've got a role to play in facilitating that conversation, bringing people together under that banner. That's why we've put out this challenge, and the first thing we want to do is get the community to test it and refine it."

David continues: "We want common currency; technical and legal systems to unlock the power and utility we know is possible when personal data is aggregated around individuals and organisations. We believe that by bringing together people to solve this issue we can collectively increase public confidence in how personal data is used. A person-centric, accessible and understandable approach to data will become the bedrock of 21st century service provision, the trigger for the innovation of a wide range of new business models and services, and one of the means by which social and societal benefits will be achieved."

BCS' survey also revealed that:

  • 64% of adults said that they aren't really happy with the way companies collect and use data about them, but they don't feel there's much they can do about it, compared to only 26% who say that they understand that companies need to collect data about them in order to provide them with services, and overall are happy with how it works
  • 44% of adults online said they would use a service whereby the provider could guarantee the safety and security of all the personal data about them and their online activities (e.g. name, address, date of birth, purchases made etc.), and give them control over who has access to it and how it is used, but wouldn't be willing to pay for it
  • Only around one in 5 (19%) agreed with the statement: "If companies give me a discount or a more personalised service (e.g. recommendations of products based on previous purchases) I think it is fair for them to collect personal data about me without my full knowledge of what they are collecting or how they are using it"

Alan Mitchell from Ctrl-Shift says: "Today, 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 now questioning how brands are using their data, and new models are emerging which empower individuals to integrate their data from different sources, and utilise it for their own purposes. We're moving to a more transparent and mature approach, where individuals have far more control over their data. This consultation will help to inform this new data ecosystem."

Feedback on the consultation paper is open to all. In addition, BCS will be hosting a workshop on 8 February 2016, where experts and interested parties can participate in the development of the challenge. BCS members and partners are encouraged to participate and provide input into this debate by running local meetings.

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