Give people the specifics on data-sharing, Data Futures Forum advises video

Tom Pullar-Strecker / Stuff.co.nz

Attitudes to data-sharing uncovered.

The key to winning the public's trust over data-sharing lies in explaining exactly why information is being shared and who will benefit, a major study suggests.

Prime Minister Bill English is pushing public sector agencies to take a "social investment" approach to their work, one aspect of which involves gathering more information about the long-term impact of government interventions on vulnerable people.

But there was an early set-back in April when the Social Development Ministry was forced to shut down an online portal because of an oversight that could have made personal information held by charities it worked with available to others.

The Data Futures Partnership, which was established by the Government in 2015, surveyed thousands of New Zealanders and also held a series of public meetings across the country to better understand attitudes towards data-sharing.

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Chairwoman Dame Diane Robertson cited British insurer Admiral's scrapped plan to offer discounted car insurance to young people – based on a computer analysis of their Facebook profiles – as an example of the tricky issues data-sharing could raise. 

Comfort around data use is "contextual", says Dame Diane Robertson, which means people want detail.
LAWRENCE SMITH/STUFF

Comfort around data use is "contextual", says Dame Diane Robertson, which means people want detail.

Gaining a "social licence" to use personal information in new ways involved answering some questions from the public, she said.

"The sorts of things they really want to know are: why is the data is being collected, what it is being used for, and who will benefit?

"They also want to know whether they will be identified, and whether their data could be sold or shared."

The Data Futures Partnership released draft guidelines to help organisations win trust, which it aims to finalise over the next three months.

People were generally more comfortable with data-sharing if they saw the benefit, which could include wider gains to society rather than just to themselves.

"When data will be used as a product in its own right for commercial gain, organisations should explain what the person is gaining in exchange and what the business is gaining."

People expected to be clearly informed about the purpose of data-collection in "specific and detailed terms", the guidelines emphasise.

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But answering questions might not be enough to satisfy communities who had "low trust", if the type of data-sharing being proposed was novel, the body advised.

"Organisations need to listen to what the community has to say about its proposed data use and to make changes if the community is not comfortable."

People also wanted to be able to correct wrong information about them, it said, which meant they needed to be able to see what had been recorded.

Adviser John Whitehead said the research suggested people were more relaxed about the sharing of health information than information about their schooling.

People on the West Coast could be more comfortable providing information to people in Wellington than within their local community.   

 - Stuff

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