Cross-party think tank Policy Connect and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics calls for national ‘settlement’ on public data collection and analysis with a ‘public good’ test

The research tells a powerful story of how members of the public need confidence in how public service providers such as the NHS and police, and their private sector partners paid for by the tax-payer, take decisions using personal data collected from and about them.  

Cross-party think tank Policy Connect and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics call for a new settlement between the citizen and all those who provide public services, both public and private bodies.

This means there needs to be a public services ‘licence to operate’: transparent, standardised ethics rules for public service providers (universities, police, health service, transport) to build for public confidence.

The report also says that MPs should have a tough Parliamentary scrutiny committee set up like the accounts committee or environmental audit committee – to make sure the public is protected. This could be part of the Science & Technology or Digital, Culture, Media & Sport committee remits, or a new committee.


Lee Rowley, Inquiry co-chair and Conservative Member of Parliament for North East Derbyshire, said: The pace of technological change and innovation is something to be hugely welcomed but also one that should be carefully considered by society and communities. It’s clear that there isn’t enough debate on these huge questions about how we interact with, develop and harness technology either in Parliament or in society as a whole. Government may have a role to play here but, before we start jumping in, we need to work through these difficult questions. The first place to start is to ensure the widest debate and we hope this report can contribute to supporting that.”

Darren Jones, Inquiry co-chair and Member of Parliament for Bristol West, said: “This is about more than just having the tools in place to react to big data breaches and technology failures – this is about the government having the leadership to proactively implement data and tech that has safety and privacy built in. That is why we are recommending the CDEI implements a single ethical framework for all public bodies, and those in the private sector providing services paid for by the taxpayer.”

Jonathan Shaw, chief executive of Policy Connect, said: “Our Inquiry addresses the concern that data capture and use is out of control.  We need to put ethics into black-box algorithms so that it’s the norm for decisions based on algorithms to pass the ‘common good’ test.  Our findings are clear that government can lead the way on empowering citizens to know where their data is used, what is collected, and how algorithms arrive at decisions. With such governmental clarity and backing, the booming British tech industry can grow in a way that is safe for users and gives tech engineers a clear path to AI innovation.”

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    Trust, Transparency and Tech: infographic