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Your data and citizen science

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Most of the time when I’ve written about contributions to citizen science, I’ve spoken in terms of giving up your time, your insights, maybe even your spare computing power.

How about giving up some of your personal data to good causes however?  That’s something that doesn’t often get spoken about, and indeed people are often very prickly about anyone having access to their data.

Yet we live in an age where data can increasingly be used for good.  The Good Data for instance are a data brokerage that use the proceeds of their work to fund projects via the Kiva lending platform in the developing world.

The concept is similar to that of the Disconnect browser extension that allows you to regain control over just who you share your data with, and when you do choose to share, you do so via a broker so you commercialize your data (or in this case donate it to a good cause).

You sense that this is but the tip of the iceberg however.  Imagine, for instance, if we could easily donate our data towards scientific research.  We already see our social network data used for things such as flu tracking, but there is much to believe this data is often far from reliable.

Suffice to say, there will need to be a strong element of trust involved to ensure the data is used appropriately, but research suggests that people are willing to do this.

A recent study found that around 60% of the general public are ok with their data being donated to good causes that will benefit society.

Now, of course, this still leaves a sizable chunk of people that wouldn’t be keen on their data being used in this way, and they will need to be given a clear opt-out.

Interestingly however, the study found that a major reason for their reluctance was that they were uneasy both about how the data would be used, and also how it would be stored.  It all seems to boil down to trust.

There was a general impression amongst the respondents however that their data is already being mined en masse by companies, so it may as well be put to good use if possible.

Would you donate your own data to a good cause if given the choice?

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