The Digital Person, a symposium: personal online data, privacy and business models

One of the nice things about living near Cambridge is being able to go to some of the excellent, usually free, events that frequently happen there. At the end of April I headed to Wolfson College for a one-day event entitled The Digital Person: A symposium (2019).

The event was organised by the Hub of All Things (HAT), a multi-institution research project which has developed a data infrastructure for users to be in control of their personal data online. Users would maintain their data in a personal data account (or ‘HATDex’). If platforms wished to gain access to the data, they would send requests and pay a fee. So the idea has the advantages of users being able to control their own data, maintain its accuracy, and be the beneficiary from the monetisation of that data. (I wondered how that would work for educational data online, particularly interactions, where there are multiple actors. E.g. who owns a discussion thread in a MOOC? Individual authors’ posts would be meaningless out of context. Technically I am sure the T&Cs mean that the MOOC owns it, but that doesn’t sit well with the goal of giving users control of their data either. This type of data may be beyond the scope of a personal data account though. It would certainly be relevant to large scale demographic/user characteristics MOOC studies though. Anyway, thinking on about that.).

I was glad to find that the day wasn’t just a sales pitch for why we should all be using a HATDEX though (or rather, it didn’t do so directly, but the presentations were all compelling discussions of broader critical issues in the monetisation of online data and privacy, which would all underscore why something like a HATDEX is a good idea). The presentations are now available online and included:

The presentations were really helpful resources for anyone interested in the topics (& include a lot of links to other fascinating literature) The 2018 Reuters Institute Digital Media Report was referred to several times during the day, and can be found here: A couple of emergent, interdisciplinary fields were referred to which were new to me – human-data interaction, and machine behaviour – which I will now be keeping an eye out for. A very stimulating day, and hopefully I’ll be able to get to the 2020 one too (I think registration is open at Eventbrite already!).

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