A new relationship between human beings and their personal data is needed after the pandemic of “high-voltage concerns about our dependence on technology”, a virtual conference organized by Scottish heard last Thursday.
Jamie Bartlett, author and broadcaster on tech issues, told audiences online that we should “redefine” our relationship with big tech companies after a huge acceleration in our use of online platforms.
He told The Scotsman’s Doing Data Better event that he was “very nervous” about giving all of his data to Amazon before the pandemic, but added: “Any of my ethical considerations regarding the use one or two really big e-commerce companies went out the window because I needed toilet paper, and I needed it from Amazon Prime immediately.
The explosion of digital technology has been a huge benefit during the pandemic, Bartlett said, asking, “Where would we have been without the incredible ability to keep us connected? It really worked, not to mention of course the importance of the data in trying to determine the spread of the virus. “
But, he added: “It reinforced some of the deeper concerns that many of us – including me – had about our reliance on certain types of technology and the production of data through that technology. . “
Bartlett went on to observe that the pandemic had widened the gap between our “analog democracy, our institutions and our laws, and our digital technology, which does not follow the same logic of standards or the same models.”
“Part of the job of companies is to keep analog and digital close to each other, or at least to minimize the gap,” he continued. “Suddenly we zoomed in for five or seven years [in terms of tech], but without time to catch up.
Another big data issue was the “blurring of the lines between work and home,” Bartlett said. He explains: “I have noticed a very disturbing trend for a long time. It’s that we have a business email, and sometimes we use it to log in or create accounts with things that have nothing to do with work.
“It’s a real problem, and I’m seeing stolen data appearing on the darknet.
“Maybe people’s work systems are extremely secure, but then they go to a gaming site and use the exact same work email / password combination. Six months later, the gaming site, which has very poor internet security, is hacked. Two months later, this business email and username / password combination goes on sale in a darknet marketplace. You can then be bought. It’s not just access to the gaming site, it’s access to your working system, which is much more serious. This vagueness is extremely risky.
“There is an important lesson for anyone who goes online to learn the basics. Even on an individual level, each of us could help our friends and family, with some real basics on data security.
Bartlett said a longer-term reset involves understanding the right to data “portability”. “We all have the right to ask companies to tell us what data they have and even return it if we ask. As more and more of us go online and more and more data is produced, I think this right becomes very important. “
He suggested that consumers group together cold, perhaps through middleman companies.
“We want a million consumers to give us all permission to go into every business, find out what data they have, then sell it directly to advertisers and share it fairly among all of you however you want.
“It would be transformational. Suddenly, people would understand data exchange and the value it can bring, but it requires coordination from citizens, as well as new businesses and new business models. I would like governments to try to encourage people to use their data better.
Jarmo Eskelinen, Executive Director of the Data-Driven Innovation Initiative, said we are still in an emerging state of real confidence in the way our data is being used. “We need a third model to trust data, as opposed to business or higher revenue models. worryingly, oppressive government models coming from China. We need a data environment that balances privacy and the public good. “
Eskelinen also spoke about the importance of data repositories, shortly after the Scottish government officially launched Research Data Scotland (RDS), to give researchers access to more and better data for the good public.
Roger Halliday, Chief Statistician of Scotland, described RDS as’ a service for researchers to help data-driven innovation happen across Scotland and to improve decision making, save time , money and lives ”.
He told the event that “trust is at the heart of everything we do” and said that RDS is based on the “five safe principles” – safe data, safe environments, safe people, safe projects and safe outcomes. “.
Economist and author Allison Schrager said the data needs to be of current relevance to be useful and to minimize risk, and cautioned against using data that is too historical.
Four roundtables looked at how improving data can support the fight against climate change, efforts to predict future pandemics, rebuilding the economy after Covid-19, and tackling financial exclusion.
In a session, Dr Murray Collins, Space Satellite Data Specialist, stressed the need to learn meaningful lessons from very large amounts of data, saying: “We are drowning in data for lack of information. “
Learn more about the conference in a special tear-off report in Thursday’s edition of Scottish.