Who owns the data?

Behind every digital interface is data and the transformation of data. Data of itself is just discrete, objective facts, and we mere humans do not readily digest or understand data. Rather, we deal in information; that is data made useful, made relevant.

A collection of data is not information – for that it also requires context and understanding. And that context and understanding often comes from considering one set of data amongst others. So ownership of data is best viewed differently to ownership of non-digital things if we’re to make the best of it.

It’s also worth noting here that a collection of information is not knowledge. Knowledge is acquired from identifying and interpreting patterns in information, and is a primary objective for human interface.

The hi:project is intent on navigating this new vista, with respect for the individual taking primacy. This table explains the vista neatly.

Traditional approach New perspective
Data actively collected with user awareness Most data from machine to machine transactions and passive collection – difficult to notify individuals
Definition of personal data is predetermined and binary Definition of personal data is contextual and dependent on social norms
Data collected for specified use Economic value and innovation come from combining data sets and subsequent uses
User is the data subject User can be the data subject, the data controller, and/or data processor
Individual provides legal consent but is not truly engaged Individuals engage and understand how data is used and how value is created
Policy framework focuses on minimising risks to the individual Policy focuses on balancing protection with innovation and economic growth

Source: Unlocking the power of personal data: From collection to usage (PDF, Figure 2, page 7), World Economic Forum.