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Report of the Digital Government Review


Asking the right question: who benefits from data sharing?

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We can start to see that, despite there being benefits and reasons to proceed with some shared data initiatives, there is insufficient understanding of the risks; an ineffective approach to security and a significant lack of trust.

In the introduction to this section several examples of data sharing were listed along with their high-level benefits.

In each case there are benefits to people and society. But it is noticeable that some of the data sharing initiatives, for example MyLicence, may initially benefit companies before subsequently benefitting people. In the case of MyLicence this would be when – or rather if – cost savings result in reduced insurance costs or reduced fees to check a driver’s details when hiring a car.

Both the Ipsos-Mori polling and the public debates around initiatives such as NHS care.data amply demonstrate that this is of concern. People believe that the benefits of many of these initiatives will be felt by large organisations that will use the data to improve their own services and increase their profits. People believe that this will further empower organisations at the expense of themselves; that this data could be used to constrain options and to limit choice.

Yet government has implemented this, and similar, data sharing approaches. In the case of MyLicence the insurance companies have been provided with access to drivers’ data before a corresponding service has been put in place for drivers to easily view, and where appropriate correct, their own data.

There is minimal control for the individual. There is minimal information on MyLicence available through official sites [64] and there appears to be neither ongoing and transparent audit nor an independent governance process with public representation to ensure that data is being used appropriately. Surely this is the wrong approach. How will this provide confidence or generate trust?

“Shifting a duty of scrutiny onto the public would have pernicious consequences for research, and could greatly limit the scope for data sharing in the public interest.” – Professional body

[64] https://www.gov.uk/search?q=mylicence

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