Unlocking public value from personal data? Brokering citizen-centred data-use spaces for the private sector – the Scottish Example

Tetley-Brown, Lucille and Daly, Angela and Miyake, Esperanza and Sorbie, Annie (2022) Unlocking public value from personal data? Brokering citizen-centred data-use spaces for the private sector – the Scottish Example. Other. Zenodo, Geneva, Switzerland. (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7272062)

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The public sector in many, if not all, countries hold large amounts of data about people - including citizens, migrants and visitors - which interact with public services such as health, education, social security. Accessing this data - much of which will constitute 'personal data' i.e., data about identified or identifiable individuals - may bring various benefits for research, public service delivery and may also result in corporate profits being generated if private companies can access the data. Granting access to this data may also lead to better transparency and checks and balances within institutions of power in a country. Various governments, including the Scottish Government, have open data policies and initiatives but this mainly relates to the sharing and opening up of non-personal data. Personal data, regulated in many countries by data protection legislation, constitutional / human rights to privacy and other frameworks, poses more complications for 'opening' up access beyond the public sector and even data sharing within the public sector. In this discussion paper we outline some of the context, issues and challenges we have encountered in the 'Unlocking the Value of Data' (UVOD) Programme and associated Independent Expert Group (IEG) work so far and set out the intended next steps for the IEG and UVOD programme. This paper will reflect on some of the processes used in the UVOD work, focusing on the IEG activities. We will focus on how the related concepts of 'the public interest' and 'public benefit' have been taken account of in the work progressed under the auspices of the Programme, and where the term 'value' is predominantly defined through citizen-centred concerns that include issues such as equality, informed consent, agency, and practice, among others. We use these nuanced terms (and, in particular, 'the public interest' and 'public benefit') to also connect to academic and practice-based discussions about if and how public sector (personal) datasets can be brokered to be accessed by the private sector in ways which generate public trust and produce public benefit. We will highlight any lessons from the Scottish case we are involved in which might inform decision-making in this area more generally.