Eight hundred years ago King John signed a document called the Magna Carta which means the Great Charter in Latin. The Magna Carta is the first of a series of constitutional charters in English law from 1215 onwards which is geared towards human rights. As more and more information is now available online, the Insight Ireland Centre for Data thinks now is the time to do a modern Magna Carta that deals with this.

The Insight Ireland Centre for Data Analytics is one of the largest data research institutes in Europe, with over 350 researchers and 40 commercial partners working in a broad range of data areas including connected health, decisions analytics, linked data and recommender systems. Insight Ireland is ideally positioned to integrate data ethics into research, practice and commercial projects.

They argue that data ethics is a very young field and that we need to keep the citizen at the heart of data research while promoting progress is data science, we need agreed definitions, parameters and values.

Insight Ireland has taken the lead in this space and, last February in Brussels, launched an EU-level discussion paper entitled ‘Towards a Magna Carta for Data’. This is a dynamic document, intended to push the data protection conversation beyond narrow concerns of privacy and protection.

Yesterday Insight Ireland ran a Workshop at Predict 2015 which is the next step in the Magna Carta for Data Project. Insight brought together stakeholders from data science, social science, business and civil society to explore definitions of ethical practice in the Big Data age, drawing in themes of citizen empowerment, research and the public good, social exclusion and definitions of ownership.

Barry O’Sullivan, director, Insight Centre for Data Analytics opened the Workshop and mentioned that data is the new oil, and as it is so cheap to gather you have to agree.

The speakers who came from a variety of different areas were:

Rob Kitchin School of Geography, NUIM.
Simon Foley Insight, UCC (data security expert).
Vivien Rooney UCC applied psychologist and specialist in consent.
Pauline Whalley Senior Counsel barrister.
Dr Heike Felzmann Lecturer in ethics,NUI Galway.

Kalpana Shankar, from the School of Information and Communication Studies in UCD introduced all the speakers and also chaired the Q&A at the end of the workshop.

speakersEach speaker spoke about security, privacy and ethics via the areas that they are experts in and whilst they might come from different backgrounds, they all wholeheartedly agreed that there must be a Magna Carta for data. Also agreed was the need for informed consent so that you know what data you are giving away, why you are giving it away as well as where and how it is being used.

Pauline mentioned that the Magna Carta said people mattered and this is what we are trying to bring back today. Pauline also mentioned that online harassment has become a significant problem, Google Spain and the right to be forgotten, legal remedies are inadequate, and that we may need to implement a digital bill of rights.

Simon mentioned Shannon’s Maxim where the enemy knows the system, if the system knows the people the people should know the system. Simon then spoke about making sure that we have the appropriate security mechanisms giving the assurance that the system upholds security property.

Security also has to be regarded as a risk that has to be managed and the best way to do this is to follow best practice. When it comes to data that is pseudonymized, it is still possible by using queries and linked data to reveal identities. Another important point made was who collects, shares and accesses personal data?

While a Magna Carta for the 21st century is a great idea, in theory it is going to be hard to put into practice as data is a commodity that is easy to monetise which makes it harder to stop it being abused. Everyone has to be singing of the same hymn sheet which is easier said than done when vested interests come into play. Opt in and opt out buttons should be prominent so that we can choose what is done with our data.

It was proposed that the EU needs to organise events to make us aware of the Magna Carta as the more aware we are of it the greater the chance of it getting implemented. For all the latest news on this plus what insight is doing visit here.

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