Innovation and Efficiency

26.04.18

Sharing of personal data could benefit public services

A new report says that the sharing of personal data across public services could bring significant improvements to the quality of service for individuals and communities.

The report, ‘Data for Public Benefit’, was published jointly by Involve, the Carnegie UK Trust and Understanding Patient Data (DUP). It identifies both benefits and risks of data sharing, but highlights the lack of a reliable way of assessing these.

The three bodies also produced a new framework to help inform decisions about data sharing in public services.

The study was based on workshops with 120 professionals from the housing, criminal justice and health and social care sector. It identified that while data can legally be shared between different public services in a wide variety of circumstances, there is no consistent system for this.

This lack of consistency poses the risk of seeing data being shared in a way that, whilst legal, may not have widespread public support.

In other cases, overly-cautious public service providers may be reluctant to share data which could be used to improve services.

To help tackle the problem, Involve, Carnegie UK Trust and UPD have published a new 18-question framework to help public services assess the benefits and risks in different scenarios.

The report also calls on public service providers to engage the public in dialogue and debate about when data should and should not be shared to improve public services.

Simon Burall, senior associate at Involve, said: “The use of data for commercial purposes has been in the news a lot recently. But data can, of course, also be used for public good by public service providers keen to provide better, faster, more responsive services to their communities.

“However, public services currently lack clarity and confidence about how the public understand and balance the benefits and risks of data sharing. This new framework will support local government to develop a more productive dialogue with the public about when data sharing is acceptable and when not.”

Douglas White, head of advocacy at Carnegie UK Trust, said: “Through our research we have identified a wide range of issues that public services take into consideration when deciding whether or not data should be shared – including the number of people the initiative will help, whether the anticipated benefits clear and measurable and how privacy concerns can be addressed.

Nicola Perrin, head of Understanding Patient Data, said: “People want to see public benefit when personal data is shared, particularly if companies are involved.

But it is often difficult to know what this means in practice. This new framework will help to guide decisions to ensure that data is only shared where the use is purposeful, proportionate and responsible.”

The full ‘Data for Public Benefit’ report is available at www.carnegietrust.org.uk

 

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