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Responsible Use of Social Media Data

KMi Reporter, Friday 28 November 2014 | Annotate
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It is excellent to see today's publication of the Responsible use of data report by the Commons Science and Technology Committee. The OU has a long track record of research expertise in social media and other forms of big data, and provided both written and oral evidence to the Committee's inquiry on Social Media and Real-time Analytics which culminated in today's report.

We commend the committee for highlighting the importance of users' informed consent in the use of their social media data, as Professor Peter Scott, Director of The Open University's Knowledge Media Institute, says:

"One click after a millisecond glance at a document designed for an American court room does not attribute real consent. Much more effort needs to go into understanding how we can effectively communicate the value consent offers and the risk it carries. It is particularly important for the public user to be able to differentiate the real from the imagined risks, and to understand the real value of sharing data." 

The call in the report for a new set of information standards for internet providers and social media companies is also to be highly commended. The oral evidence by KMi's Dr Mathieu d'Aquin emphasised the need for Government policy to support and extend funding for research in this field. Employees need to see the data that employers hold about them and value the opportunity to do so, as Dr d'Aquin explains:

"Even in our early research we have found that employees are actually quite reassured.  Knowing that data is collected, it is incredibly valuable to be able to see it. Policies to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to support this and guidelines to enforce it are essential. Transparent trustability is critical here. It is very important to give back the data to the citizen that is collected about them."

The Open University is to lead on a new European Data Science Academy that aims to provide a range of new skills to the public consumer, the policy maker and professionals to increase our understanding of the use of data in the new online world. The ethics of data use and the meaning of the data we provide through our online lives will be critical to the success of that new initiative.

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