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When Open Data meets Personal Data

Posted on: Tuesday 16th of July 2013

There’s a huge amount going on in the world of Open Data. There’s a huge amount going on in the world of personal data. What happens when these two worlds meet?

Answer: a veritable value explosion, as our new paper When Open Data meets Personal Data shows.

There’s something really special about this value explosion.

Big Data – the world of large volume data sets, statistics, correlations, patterns and trends – has huge potential in its own right. But it also has its limitations. Knowing where every bus or tube is, right now, on the London transport system is essential information for transport managers, but of only limited interest to most of us.

But if you add just a tiny bit of personal information – say, about where I am and where I’m trying to get to – then suddenly it’s a different matter. Now you’ve got the makings of a really useful app.

Making the connection

This app creates value by making a connection between information from and about me to information about the world out there, to get exactly the right information to the right person at the right time: maximum convenience and utility.

This crystallisation of informational value around the specific circumstances and needs of each individual potentially involves every individual in every walk of life, across most aspects of their lives, drawing on most data sets. It’s a new world of opportunity.

It’s not all plain sailing however. At one level, Open Data and personal data are like chalk and cheese. Open Data is all about opening up data for anybody to use for any purpose. It’s about creating a free-for-all. Personal data is the opposite. It’s surrounded by privacy concerns and constraints about who can use what data for what purposes.

That’s as it should be. And the two can be connected if you get the underlying data sharing relationships right: if individuals are included as data managers in their own right.

Consumer and citizen value through personal information empowerment. That’s what unites Open and personal data. The question now is who is going to seize this opportunity.