The Observer’s Facebook revelations reignited debates about ownership of our details. But while we seek privacy in parts of our digital life, open data elsewhere could be a force for good
Some powerful quotes:
Politicians, entrepreneurs, academics, even bureaucrats spend an awful lot of time these days lecturing each other about data. There is big data, personal data, open data, aggregate data and anonymised data. Each variety has issues: where does it originate? Who owns it? What it is worth?
Citizens concerned about data rights are unlikely to take to the streets in their millions. There are constitutional, democratic balance of power gains for citizens who manage their own public sector data, and we strongly advocate them, but there are cash gains and exciting new applications for the same people in their role as consumers. Mass opting-in to that will drive the change, if it is fostered by the powers that be.
How likely is it that this can be achieved? Indulge for the moment a contrary metaphor. The world wide web raced like a brush fire across the internet in the 1990s. One of the many reasons was the simplicity of hyperlinks. In the early days of the web version of these, the convention arose that they would be underlined and coloured. Tim Berners-Lee doesn’t remember who chose blue. But that colour emerged and stuck; like any successful mutation, it outlived other mutations, met the challenges of, therefore became an integral part of, its environment.