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04 May 2018

Data Privacy and the Research Data Alliance

Fran Berman, RDA/US

Recently I downloaded my Twitter information.  I’m relatively new to Twitter and have only tweeted 16 times and liked 13 tweets.  However, from my posted information and elsewhere, Twitter has inferred 56 interests, includes me in 374 focused groups built by partners, and counts me as part of 1017 audiences from 377 advertisers.  Without my input, they have characterized my gender (female), my age (13-17 and >50, go figure) and my (non-existent) interest in commercial trucks. 

In the throes of the digital age, companies and organizations are amassing extraordinarily rich profiles of us and are using them to customize, personalize and convenience us.  With insufficient policy and regulatory guardrails, this information is also being used to exploit, intrude, influence, and manipulate us.  With the deadline for Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) looming, and new data privacy regulation being proposed in the U.S. Congress and elsewhere, data privacy is at the forefront of a global discussion.  In a very real sense, the actions we take now will make a tremendous difference with respect to the quality of our digital life in the Information Age.

Data privacy regulation will only be as successful as the infrastructure that supports its protections.  Without adequate data access control and management, sufficient data quality and security, and unbiased algorithms and controls on autonomous behavior, the protections of the GDPR and other legislation will not provide the privacy they promise.

So what does this have to do with the RDA? RDA’s mission is to build the social and technical infrastructure (bridges) that enable open sharing of data.  As we know from the diverse and outstanding work of RDA’s 90+ Interest and Working groups, the building of infrastructure is challenging and approaches developed to address one problem often create unanticipated others.  Infrastructure expertise is not just empowering to the research community but highly relevant to the larger community living in a world in which data is inescapable and increasingly, the connective tissue of modern life.

At this juncture, the RDA community has much to offer the public sector:  knowledge of data and its benefits and consequences, infrastructure expertise that can help frame protections for the broader world, and experience using the most modern digital technologies and tools.  The public sector needs informed leadership.  This is an important time for RDA to facilitate important conversations about data, and an important time for our community to be involved and engaged in those conversations.  See you on Twitter.  @FranBerman

(This post represents the personal views of Fran Berman and is not meant to represent the views of RDA/US or its funders.)

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There are 1 comments on "Data Privacy and the Research Data Alliance".

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    Author: suka chibi

    Date: 06 Mar, 2019

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