For The Conversation, Network chief of research Stefaan Verhulst proposes a new way of viewing data responsibility in the information age. He argues that while the value and utility of data (and open government data in particular) is increasingly recognized, much of the most useful information is held by the private sector in proprietary datasets. A new understanding of and framework for data responsibility, he argues, "can help organisations break down these private barriers and share their proprietary data for the public good. In the case of the private sector, in particular, it represents a type of corporate social responsibility for the 21st century."
Verhulst, who discussed also discussed this new idea of data responsibility at last week's TEDxMidAtlantic event, offers three pillars of data responsibility:
1. A duty to share
"This is perhaps the most evident duty: to share private data when it’s clear that it will serve the public good. Secondary use is not always popular among data holders (often for good reasons) but when done correctly, data sharing can have powerful social benefits."
2. A duty to protect
"Sharing does involve risks, notably to privacy, security and other individual rights. So it is imperative that organisations share responsibly, with every effort to protect both the data itself and the individuals who have surrendered their data (even if often unwittingly)."
3. A duty to act
"For released data to serve the public good, officials and others must also adopt policies and interventions based on insights gained from its release. Without action, the potential remains just that — potential."