The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has released the report of its 2015 inquest into big data, calling for “urgent actions on the electronic abilities disaster” and on “getting the better of public doubt over information sharing”. It telephones, among other things, for the establishment of a Council of Data Ethics in the Alan Turing Institute to address “well founded” public anxiety about privacy and protection.
The committee, chaired by Conservative member of Parliament Nicola Blackwood, says its disagreement together with the authorities that current UK data protection regulations may be left until the European Union (EU) Data Protection Regulation comes into force.
Blackwood said: “A Council of Data Ethics ought to be produced to expressly address [private information] authorization and trust problems head on. The authorities must indicate that it’s seriously interested in protecting people’s privacy by making the identifying of individuals by de-anonymising information a criminal offence.”
The report encourages the authorities to introduce “a criminal punishment for malicious data protection violations by commencing sections 77 and 78 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008”. The authorities shouldn’t, says the report, see the two-year execution period as a reason behind postponement of the EU Data Protection Regulation.
Additionally, it urge the urgent adoption of the advice commissioner’s “data protection kitemark” as a complement to punishments.
Trust must be gained by authorities around information
The report, which describes the UK as “a world leader in big data research”, generally analyzes the tension between commercialising and shielding citizen information.
It notes that 58,000 jobs could be created and GBP216bn given to the UK market (2.3% of GDP) over a five-year span. But it warns that businesses are analysing only 12% of their information.
It encourages the authorities to clarify its interpretation of the EU’s information regulation on the reuse and de-anonymisation of private information, introducing changes to the 1998 Data Protection Act to reach a balance between “the advantages of processing information and valuing people’s privacy worries”.
Written entries were taken by the committee from 81 organisations, including Alzheimer’s Research UK, a slew of government departments, Barclays, and IT providers EMC, Microsoft and SAP, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
IT sector trade body techUK made verbal and written submissions to the enquiry. In a statement it said: “the Committee … echoes concerns raised by techUK relating to the requirement to solve the big data abilities difference, by ensuring a national ability pipeline as well as a bright migration policy. The report repeats our call for a clear and workable data protection legal framework as well as the value of addressing consumer information trust and assurance concerns”.
One of the report’s conclusions are that the authorities should play a “significant part” in the creation of information analytics abilities in companies and increase “big data training” for civil servants.
It calls on the authorities to set out a strategy for big data infrastructure development and to put in place a framework for auditing authorities information quality, to be managed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) as well as the Office for National Statistics.
Access to health records for patients
The report identifies health care information as particularly sensitive, and declares another failure from the exact same stable as Care.info to be unaffordable.
“Patients and GPs are prone to be content for their private information to be utilized for health care and medical research in the event the advantages are clearly described and sufficient safeguards are in place,” it said.
The committee said: “The authorities should take careful account of the lessons from a similar, successful, scheme in Scotland. To help bring patients onside and to streamline health care across different NHS providers – hospitals, GPs, pharmacists and paramedics – it should give them simple on-line access to their particular health records”.
Big data one of the eight technologies that are truly amazing
The report follows through on a November 2014 report from the exact same parliamentary committee on the responsible usage of the latest social media information.
Big data was one of the “eight amazing technologies” identified by the coalition government, which likewise featured eco-friendly IT. Those two were allotted GBP189m of a GBP600m package, announced by minister for science and universities David Willetts in January 2013.
Big data is described by the committee as “ways of managing data sets so big, dynamic and complicated that conventional techniques are inadequate to analyse their content”.
The big data subject was encouraged by the coalition government by supporting and declaring the Alan Turing Institute with GBP42m in March 2014, as an institute for information science.
The Alan Turing Institute is headquartered in London at The British Library, below the collective umbrella of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, UCL, as well as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It’s this institute the report says should place the planned Council of Data Ethics.