Digital Catapult shows us how to build trust

The irony meter just broke.

The Digital Catapult is currently advertising for a new Chief Executive.

In the first paragraph of the job description they explain that the Digital Catapult focuses on “four areas of opportunity in sharing proprietary data: Sharing closed data between organisations; sharing personal data in a way that’s secure and trusted; sharing licensed data more simply and sharing data generated across the Internet of Things.”

I imagine this “sharing of personal data in a way that is secure and trusted” must include “using very long privacy policies that most people will not read but are obliged to agree to before allowing people to see the important information they’ve come to a page to visit”, given that you need to accept the rather long and small print privacy policy before you can even see the person specification and full job details.

They also must feel that burying clauses like “we may disclose your personal data to the prospective seller or buyer of such business or assets” way down in the scroll through box is also a good way of establishing trust:

 

You note that "may sell" clause?
Privacy policy on the job advert page

 

So I guess they’re not doing much about informed consent then?

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Waving goodbye to July

What a month July was – I’m not sure I’ve had such a busy month for a very long time… lots of travelling as part of work (doing NHS Citizen stuff), but also lots of seeing friends in different places such as managing to see my best friend in Manchester, and fulfilling a life long desire to stroll up the Champs-Élysées for breakfast after lots of jazz.

I still managed to do a bunch of reading though…

Things I read

Tanglewreck – Jeanette Winterson
“Today lies on top of yesterday. And yesterday on top of the day before, and so on down the layers of history, until the layers are so thick that the voices underneath are muffled to whispers”

You can rarely go wrong with a good children book – and this is an OK one. Gorgeous concept, but I’m possibly a bit too old and too ‘sciency’ to buy into the idea of time travel as portrayed here.
 
Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
It had long been on my to read pile – but I found that I really need to spend some time just sat down with it as the largely stream of consciousness writing style meant it wasn’t a book to pick up and put down. It explores some of my favourite themes – interactions between individuals, understanding/acceptance of decisions made, reinterpretation/subjectivity of perspectives, and mental health. The ending made me itch with frustration as I wanted greater resolution…
 
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
Time, age, and introspection seemed common themes for books in July. I loved the period of time the book could span due to the tale told, always from a single perspective. Reading through an individuals slow stepping their way towards forgiveness – you can read this as a book about faith, or you can remove the religious aspect entirely and read it as being about family, relationships, and human interactions.

 

Things I did

  • Building Digital Democracy event in Parliament – interesting afternoon. I wasn’t convinced by everything that was being presented as being new/interesting/valuable, but certainly a step in the right direction of getting digital and parliament talking to each other more. Wednesday lunch time is rarely a good time for a Parliamentary event though.
  • Turkish baths, champagne, and chinese in Harrogate – there is a place in Harrogate where you can do 3 of the best things ever. You can go to Turkish baths (bathing, heat, cool water, all surrounded by amazing architecture), and then eat chinese and drink champagne after. Possibly the best evening of my life.
  • Open Government Partnership launch – I’m very pro greater openness in Government, so was very happy to be at the launch event for the next national action plan. It was excellent to be involved in conversations about ‘open data’ going beyond just openness in terms of licensing. Anyone who has heard me rant about this over the last few years will know *quite* how happy I was to hear others talking in these terms in this meeting…
  • Wikimedia UK Volunteer Strategy Gathering – conversations about communities, community building/empowering, strategy, and open knowledge, genuinely fit into my idea of a good time on a Saturday. I may be somewhat of a nerd though… I’m not convinced by the processes they are currently proposing, nor their focus on committees and advisory boards, but we shall see what happens next!

Things I saw

Fast and Furious 6 and 7 – Incredible. For all the wrong/right reasons. 7 was the better of the two – if only for bonus Jason Statham, The Rock pulling a gun from a Predator drone having literally flexed a cast off his arm, Vin Diesel and the amazing car jump to hook a bag of grenades onto a helicopter. Oh and a glorious scene where a car is driven through multiple towers in Abu Dhabi. And the bit where the team parachute out of a plane in their cars. It’s ludicrous. But so much fun.

Green Hornet – An absolute farce and terrible film that was perfect for a giggly evening in with pizza. Will NEVER watch it again, and will never recommend it.

The Man Who Knew Too Little – Mildly amusing. Not recommended

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off– Hard not to see the appeal for many. A giggle and a backward glange to an idealised teenage day that no-one ever actually had, and to a person none of us ever were.

 

So, roll on August – a month of more travel, lots of planned films, and hopefully some time to actually see some exhibitions. I plan to actually settle down and get back into reading something non-fictional as well, and I have the feeling I have some proms tickets for something…

The Politics of Hack Days

One of the big values of a hack day is taking datasets away from their original owners, and getting a bunch of tech-focused people to play about with them. You remove the preconceptions that the owner may hold about the data, and see what happens when a different group of people uses that set of information.

One of the big values of a hack day is taking datasets away from their original owners, and getting a bunch of tech-focused people to play about with them. You remove the preconceptions that the owner may hold about the data, and see what happens when a different group of people uses that set of information.

The direction taken in a hack day environment is a function of those present in the room, and the datasets provided. Both knowledge and values guide what an individual or group thinks to do with a given data set, and decisions are made about what other data sets are used as comparison or in combination, what context these data sets are placed in, what assumptions (both conscious and subconscious) are made, and how any outputs are visualised or understood.

If we want to produce non-partisan outputs, we need to balance as far as possible the political biases in the input provided – both in terms of data and expertise. And this means that the decisions made by hack day organisers in terms of who is providing guidance and which data sets are provided or pointed to shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Campaigning organisations are driven by particular political objectives, and this informs the questions they ask, and the data they chose to collect and subsequently release. We can’t (and shouldn’t) collect all data about every person, group or organisation. Even organisations which are attempting to be non-political will make value judgements about what is (and what isn’t) important data to collect. And this effect will be much stronger – both subconsciously and consciously – in datasets produced by campaigning organisations. Those with strong political objectives and ideologies will also suggest different things to do with a specific dataset.

Therefore, if you run a non-partisan high-profile hack day focusing on critical analysis of Government, it might be prudent to not have this event partly sponsored by a right-wing small-state lobby group, unless you balance this. It might be wise to ensure you have an equal and opposite force with similar prominence in the room, providing guidance and datasets.

I’m not saying exclude guidance and datasets from those with strong political ideology. In fact, to ensure disruptive outcomes, you want to ensure you have many strong views in a room.

However, if the aim of your hack day is to produce something useful and informed by the widest amount of information available, you want to ensure these influences are balanced and diverse.

It can’t be that hard.