An individual’s personal data is a valuable asset, just like their money. However, whilst we are acutely aware of the need to not just protect but also understand and control any movements of our money, people generally don’t have any concept of what’s happening to their data on a routine basis.
This inevitably breeds a mistrust between data controllers and the data subjects. Everyone, from social media-savvy pre-teens to technology-suspicious older people, have unwittingly signed up to terms and conditions which allow their personal data to be shared widely, with each contract offering its own specific set of bewildering permission details.
One piece of research suggests it would take an average person 76 days each year to read all the data contracts they were signed up to. This means the usual calls for T&Cs to be made easier to understand (and less ‘impenetrable’ as the Children’s Commissioner recently argued) isn’t enough by itself.
It seems that we’ve reached a point where the public, organisations and government need to engage in a renewed dialogue on the use of personal data. And that’s exactly what it needs to be; a dialogue between institutions and the public, instead of the ultimatum we are currently presented with of ‘either sign this T&Cs form or get lost’.