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Who are the heroes and villains regarding personal data?

BCS debate on personal data reaches new levels.

Every story has a hero and a villain, though just who are playing these characters in the growing crisis around personal data, was recently widely debated at an IT Impact event organised by BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT. The event was held as part of the Institute’s personal data challenge to bring together interested parties to help make personal data work for everyone.

Shami Chakrabarti, human rights campaigner, who spoke at the Institute’s IT Impact event, stressed how personal data is no longer a niche debate and with the IT industry best placed to lead on the issues, the public should feel empowered in this area.

Geoff White, journalist from Channel 4 News, highlighted through ‘The Secret Life of your Mobile Phone’ demonstration that we have no idea of the journey data is taking and the conversations that are taking place behind the scenes when we access services on a smart phone. He went on to explain that we leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs after digital transactions. Observing that the public is not entirely sure if the IT industry is the hero or the villain in this.

David Evans, Director of Policy at BCS explains: "The way personal data is often used, and the risks organisations are taking on our behalf, can come as a shock to people. In the IT sector we need to take responsibility for that. It’s paramount that we redesign how we manage personal data and put measures in place to ensure the safety of people’s data.”

A recent survey carried out by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that only one in four UK adults trust businesses with their personal information, and only a fifth trust internet companies with their data. Our own survey results show that security is the top issue keeping IT professionals awake at night, while a separate survey shows that 89% of people in Great Britain* think they should be able to control what data a company collects about them online, and what it uses this data for.

Alan Mitchell from specialist consultancy Ctrl-Shift says: “Trust around data is at a critical level. How we are currently using data is not working. It is vital that we understand the value of data as a tool in the hands of individual as well as the organisation. This will in turn transform attitudes to data by both organisations and individuals.”

David concludes: “We believe that by bringing together people and helping them to work differently we can collectively increase public confidence in how personal data is used. The aim is make personal data work for everyone, organisations, individuals and society alike, with the IT industry as the hero of the story.”

As part of its work to make IT good for society and commitment to making personal data work for everyone: organisations, individuals and society alike, BCS, has launched a ‘Personal Data Challenge’. The Institute recently held the debate discussing ‘is there a better way’ for sharing personal data. For more information on the debate visit: BCS IT Impact event, Information without borders

Further details of the BCS personal data challenge are available at:www.bcs.org/personaldata

*findings from an online YouGov online survey on behalf of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, undertaken in December 2015

BCS IT Impact debates are a series of events which gives you the chance to get involved in understanding how your work reverberates through society. Each event tackles key societal and technology issues IT professionals face. The debates are inspirational and will make you think differently.

The next IT Impact event is taking place on the 20 October in Manchester where the debate will focus on health and care.

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