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Tuesday 6th December 2016



People generally recognise that there are many social benefits to be derived from big data analytics, in scientific and medical research, evidence based policy and decision making and improved consumer products and services. The technological transformation of the last two decades has seen an explosion in the myriad of ways in which data can be generated and used by governments, companies, and individuals. In the last decade there has been a huge increase in the amount of information people share through digital media and the last five years the advent of data science companies such as Uber and AirBnB who have built global brands through the targeted processing of data. These trends are set to continue and define the first half of the People generally recognise that there are many social benefits to be derived from big data analytics, in scientific and medical research, 21st century.

Against this are the issues of privacy; evidence suggests that even though they are concerned about how their personal data is used, managing the privacy of their personal data isn’t something individuals put much thought or effort into. Part of the issue is disempowerment; the complexity of the new data environment, the variation in practice across and within sectors and the breakneck pace of technological change all lead to radical passivity; an average citizen is they are hazy about what privacy is with the term being used in different contexts to mean different things and even if they do have a clear idea about what privacy means to them they are unclear about what actions they could take to protect it across a range of different contexts and indeed whether these would make any practical difference. Other issues are more technical – how do we provide the infrastructure that will enable citizens to be proactive about their privacy without burdening them with impractical fifty page privacy policies?

The challenge here is inherently interdisciplinary with contributions necessary from computer scientists, mathematicians, sociologists, educationalists, lawyers, ethicists and philosophers. In short it is a canonical data science problem.

In this context, this event, part of a week-long workshop on New Developments in Data Privacy, linked to the Isaac Newton Institute (INI) research programme on Data Linkage and Anonymisation, will highlight new approaches to informing and engaging the public to be functional ‘digital citizens’. It will showcase research and practice relevant to the area and will bring together experts with an audience of stakeholders to exchange knowledge and best practice.

Aims and Objectives

This one day workshop explored new ways in which data subjects can take an active part in how their data are shared. An interdisciplinary blend of science and technology, social policy, psychology legal analysis will be presented.

Presentations and discussion explored how people think about privacy and how this interacts with the use of personal data. They investigated the mechanisms which need to be implemented to improve privacy of data and how the Big Data community can potentially help to address such issues. Presentations were designed to be accessible to a broad audience and covered area such as:

  • The Public understanding of privacy
  • Multifaceted models of privacy
  • Consent management
  • Personal data stores
  • Digital citizenship
  • Economic approaches to privacy

Session two of the programme included short talks from data holders on perspectives and the challenges they face and the day finished with a facilitated panel discussion.

The event was of interest to a wide range of communities including data holders, privacy practitioners and researchers, IT professionals across all sectors health providers, retailers, the financial sector, market and social research companies, government; indeed anyone who has an interest in the future of data privacy.

Registration and Venue

The workshop took place at the Isaac Newton Institute, Cambridge. Please see the link for directions to the venue.