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The kickoff of the Data Transparency Lab

data transparency labThe kickoff of the D-lab last week was a very refreshing experience for the people who really care of a sustainable digital ecosystem. We do believe that it is the right way to go forward!

 

In the digital ecosystem we work in a multistakeholder basis. Not only in issues related with its governance but also in the design of services, products and policies.

 

Barcelona hosted this initiative. The Data Transparency Lab is a lab formed by Telefónica together with researchers from universities, companies and institutions that support research and aim to offer solutions to the citizens. The reach is global and the purpose is thinking how to design a digital ecosystem with human face.

 

Indeed, the event took place in response to the increasing lack of trust among users. They are really concern on the use and reuse of their data, either public or private institutions. We live in an age of sharing and digital confidence is, doubtless, a precondition for letting this ecosystem flourish.

 

Therefore, the alarm created by the increase of monitoring and collecting of personal data online, which is taking place without the express consent of users has inspire a cooperation of people from diverse regional, professional  origins to research and share solutions to the public. Thereby, the objective of the D-Lab has been to assess the use made of personal data of users, and the footprint left during their online life. Moreover the main goal is to find a way for this data to be controlled by the users who generate it themselves.

 

Pablo Rodríguez, Director of the Barcelona R&D Centre, explained during his speech the benefits and risks of Open Data, the open and the global internet. He highlighted some relevant findings of current researches: user who tries to access the purchase of travel via the internet receives different prices according to whether it is done from a mac or pc. This is at first sight unfair.

 

In fact, users are completely vulnerable due the lack of transparency. These practices deserve researches and solutions to be solved. Because at the end the current disadvantages such as this, price discrimination from data, should be evaluated, together with benefits such as the possibility of anticipating illnesses which a person may experience in the future and enabling preventive action.

All the participants in the D-Lab agreed on this problem by indicating that nowadays, we are operating in an unregulated environment which allows a person to have 300 companies observing their movements online, while they browse the web from a newspaper. Our digital footprints, ensure and allow companies to create profiles of us examining our online history and, according to our movements on the internet, they choose the recommendations directed to us. This data is sold and all of this occurs without the user’s approval for this analysis or sale of his own data, in addition, he is unaware. And this sale, for which the user receives no benefit, only generates value for online advertising.

 

Confidence and transparency

 

According to José Luís Agúndez, from Telefónica Digital, if we do not respond to this matter, webloggers will lose complete trust in browsing, something which would end the future of great advancements for the user who can generate proper treatment of his data. The option which he suggests is creating tools which allow users to empower those reputable, transparent companies to manage their data. Otherwise, the possibility of creating an ecosystem in which users have control over their data and can bring them value, and which is also valuable for advertisers, electronic trade and other stores, would be destroyed.

 

The aim is to remain with the benefits that Open Data offers and, according to Pablo Rodríguez, this will not be achieved without openness and neutrality in data, their availability to users and tools to combine them in a way for users to benefit from them.

 

The members of the Data Transparency Lab: powers from industry and research, legislators and regulators, share in the will to achieve a trustworthy environment and work to understand the prejudices and advantages of the treatment of Open Data. They hope to obtain tangible results in this regard and are supporting research in universities, which both Telefónica and their partners are sponsoring.

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Chema Alonso

Chief Data Officer, Telefonica.