07 Mar 2022

Making the Case for Data-Driven Technology

Guest blog: Ruth Porter, Managing Director and Josh Butler, Associate Director at Finsbury Glover Hering discuss the UK Government's upcoming reform to its data protection regime.

Read Finsbury Glover Hering's report, From rhetoric to regulation: Will 2022 be a watershed year for technology sector privacy, regulation, and AI?, here.

Much of the debate around data focuses on the negatives – data breaches, intrusive collection methods and unregulated online monitoring. This perception is strong among those aged 16-26 in the U.K. and 56% of those surveyed expressed concern about how their data is used. However, the everyday benefits data-driven technology provides means this statistic shows a clear lack of understanding. It also demonstrates the opportunity that exists to make the case in its favour. Data creation and collection is growing at an ever-increasing rate, a trend only accelerated by COVID.

The U.K.’s young people understand that, with 78% of those polled assuming that some of what they are doing online or on their phone is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms, or other companies. This statistic is not a concern in and of itself, and likely reflects the reality of modern data collection. However, when combined with the fact that 47% believe the risks of data collection outweigh the benefits (compared to 36% who believe the benefits outweigh the risks), there is a danger that future data-driven technological advancements could be stymied by unsubstantiated public concerns.

For policymakers and businesses, there is a need to proactively make the case for data-driven technology, a case that will be supported by more effective regulation. As in reality, the case for data-driven technology is inarguable. Consider the pandemic as an example: the U.K.’s ability to identify new variants relied on mass genomic sequencing, issues with self-isolating were lessened by the social contact communications platforms enable, and reopening was facilitated by ordering through QR codes in pubs and restaurants.

These real-life benefits would not have been possible without the proliferation of data-driven technology. It should therefore concern both the Government and the plethora of businesses that rely on data that only 12% of young people believe they benefit a lot from data collection. This is ultimately a failure on two fronts. Policy has failed to keep up with the rapidly changing digital landscape, while together businesses and Government have failed to make the positive case for data-driven technology.

The U.K. Government is beginning to wake up to this challenge. It launched a consultation last year on a ‘new direction’ for data in the UK, while the expert Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation is leading the charge to drive trustworthy data collection and sharing methods, with new guidance, data principles and assurance models. These policy initiatives will go some way towards building trust in data. However, as the U.K. considers its ‘new direction’ it must start from first principles and highlight the benefits that data-driven technology provides. This will ultimately require businesses to explain how their data usage improves our lives – both on the grand-scale and in the small everyday things.

For companies, working with Government to develop effective policy that builds public trust in data must therefore go hand in hand with proactively communicating the benefits of the technology. Without this proactive approach, we risk stifling innovation and further technological progress.

With the technology industry under immense political and media scrutiny, we wanted to understand how Gen Z and younger millennials view the sector, and the growing calls for greater regulatory intervention. To find out, we surveyed a total of 2,400 Gen Z and younger millennials across the U.S., China, Germany, and the U.K., giving us a global perspective on the sector’s strategic environment. Read the full report and findings here.

 


 

Ruth Porter

Ruth Porter

Managing Director, Finsbury Glover Hering

Ruth Porter is a Managing Director in Finsbury Glover Hering’s London office. She has previously worked at TechUK, as well as at the London Stock Exchange Group as Head of International Affairs and also served as a Special Adviser in the UK government for a number of years.

Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Associate Director, Finsbury Glover Hering

Josh Butler is an Associate Director in the London Political and Regulatory team and a qualified lawyer. He has a particular interest in digital and data policy, as well as how competition law developments impact technology companies.

 

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