New article on public perceptions of good data management, led by Todd Hartman
Todd Hartman, Helen Kennedy, Robin Steedman and Rhia Jones have published an article in Big Data and Society about a survey that they undertook in May 2019, involving 2000 UK residents and exploring perceptions of good data management. The study was motivated by growing interest in these three things:
- The idea of ‘good data’ (as seen in the Good Data book)
- Public perceptions of datafication (as seen in this Living With Data research and our related review of existing research)
- Alternative approaches to data management, as a result of the GDPR and what has been identified as a ‘data trust deficit’ by the Royal Statistical Society.
The survey found that respondents dislike the current approach in which commercial organizations control their personal data and prefer approaches that give them control over their data, that include oversight from regulatory bodies or that enable them to opt out of data gathering. It found that variations of data trusts were preferred to ‘the status quo’, but they were not as preferable as approaches listed above. This may be because this is not a very familiar model to members of the public.
Existing knowledge and age were important factors in influencing respondents’ preferences. Less knowledgeable respondents were less likely to differentiate amongst data management models, and younger respondents were more likely to rate the status quo more highly. It should also be noted that some of what people say they would prefer is covered by GDPR. raise questions for future research about the relationship between the ‘law in theory’ and the ‘law in practice’ (Galetta et al 2016). These include questions about whether people perceive the existing arrangements as ‘good’ but in need of better enforcement, or whether greater oversight by regulators and more stringent regulations would be preferred.
What’s more, people may say they want more control, but offloading the responsibility for good and informed data management decision-making onto citizens may be problematic. Effective approaches to greater personal control need further research.