Personal data may not be so personal anymore

Posted December 08, 2016

Ola Svedin is the CEO of Mobile Heights, a cluster organisation connecting academy, industry and government. He has a lot to say about big data and how it is handled. Ola talks about what happened to him during a trip. Many of us have a gmail-account, and so has also Ola. During a trip he downloaded the program Google Trips and all of a sudden, he could spot that the gmail and trip-program connected and started to give him spot-on suggestions during the trip.

As data about our behaviours in all situations are piling up, question about ownership of the data becomes a burning issue. The next question is what the owner might do with that data. During The Bridge conference in June 2016, a workshop was arranged to address these questions. Ola Svedin, says the workshop was very fruitful and emanated in these three points that he aims to take forward to The Bridge Summit 2017 in Copenhagen:

  • How you protect your personal data
  • Who collects and owns the data
  • Disease alerts and clinical studies using personal data

Personal data in controlled clinical studies has great potential

Big personal data might be of most positive use for the health sector. As people search symptoms online, it might be feasible to quickly spot disease outbreaks and trends locally for example for the Swedish Public Health Authority (Folkhälsomyndigheten) or for online search engines. But whereas Google delivers the right consumer to the right buyer, controlled clinical studies using big data have the potential to be a positive force if conducted in the right way. It might be tempting to sign up for a research study using your Fitbit-data, but Ola Svedin quickly dismisses that type of data collection as “not mature” and not certified for correct scientific assumptions. In the greater Öresund area, deemed one of the five most innovative places according to European Commission, there are several health study initiatives. Mindoktor.se is a company based in Skåne, enabling patient / doctor videoconference for fast and secure diagnosis. Region Skåne has ongoing innovation procurement for prevention of patients falling in their homes. This is initiated together with the young Skåne-based company Next Step Dynamics for the technical part of the study.

There are of course other actors that we would rather not got their hands on, and used, our health data; the insurance companies. Health data in this context can probably never be seen through an objective lens. Insurance companies do business and could possibly make it tougher and more expensive for insurance takers. Right now, there are now legal barriers for insurance companies to use personal health data.

Big data touches upon democracy and capitalism

In the wake of the election in the USA, big data appears as a question of democracy. This issue is highly connected to the ownership of our data. Did Russia influence the election, as Russian hackers indeed were invading candidate Clintons mail account? Large companies that collect data are forces with great computer power to cross-check data that no man ever could think of, but they are not elected by the rest of us to do so. Ola Svedin himself refers to his gmail-account and trip-program during his trip: it is meant to be of use and comfortable for me, but I wonder how much data about us that is stored waiting for the right customer. Ola says that in the end personal data is just like any other technological breakthrough; a two-edged sword that we need to use with care.