About Data About Us - RSA

About Data About Us


  • Technology

This paper summarises the findings of a project by the RSA, the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Luminate exploring narratives around data rights and data ownership: how people feel about data about them, and how we can find ways to talk about data that everyone can understand and engage with.

On a daily basis, we are asked to make decisions about personal data about us – consenting to it being gathered and used for many purposes. We are only just starting to grasp the impact that these decisions have on us, and others. We must think differently about data, and the rights and responsibilities around it.

We must engage with and listen to people about how they feel, and stop writing off ‘the public’ as being complacent or ignorant about data protection issues, as they often are by people in power and in the media.

Our research explored how members of the UK public feel about data about them, about having ownership or rights around it, and what kind of control or protection they feel is missing or needs strengthening. We did this over the course of two focus groups and a workshop, in London.

People told us that they generally feel positive about the benefits brought by the internet and being more connected, but want greater honesty and transparency, agency and control, rights and responsibility, context and fairness, and compliance and enforceability over how data about them is used.

They want companies to take greater responsibility for honestly communicating what is happening to data about them. They said that governments should regulate and enable this, that regulation should not be financially motivated, and that it should be overseen by independent bodies like commissioners or ombudsmen.

We heard important perspectives from a small group of people. We want to build on this and hear how more people feel.

We want to start a conversation between people, governments and businesses, along with NGOs, interest groups and think-tanks. We want to discuss the rights we have, and the responsibilities that governments, businesses and all of us should have. We want to strengthen our data rights.

Download the summary report

Download the full report

Follow the conversation and share your views on Twitter at #WeAreNotRobots.

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Picture of Renate Samson
Renate Samson
Senior Policy Advisor, ODI

Picture of Anna Scott
Anna Scott
Head of Content, ODI

Picture of Kayshani Gibbon
Researcher, Economy, Enterprise and Manufacturing