Research to shift power through data governance
A data marketplace is an approach that enables consumers to sell or trade their personal data for services or other benefits. It’s common knowledge by now that data is “valuable” but it’s also an open question what kind of price tag you can put on data (or access to processing the data) particularly when transactions tend to be business-to-business. Quite a few new platforms are positioning themselves as new intermediaries of the data economy, seeking trust from individuals and cultivating new willingness to share or transfer personal data. The questions posed through this approach are multiple. Why shouldn’t people be paid for data that big tech profits from? How could you develop interoperable systems to transfer data between platforms? Could it lead to more transparency around processing and algorithms? Critiques of this approach can be scathing, suggesting that data marketplaces incentivize data collection that should not happen in the first place. Bypassing data brokers that operate in the shadows may sound appealing as a business model, but critics argue that it promotes a commodification of personal data that is core to what is already wrong with the surveillance economy. In theory, it is imagined that customers of data marketplaces could pool their data for collective bargaining (similar to credit unions where people pool their finances for the collective benefit of members). Members could own and manage such “data unions” and at the same time earn profits from aggregated data. The Streamr marketplace, for example, allows business and individuals to bundle and sell real-time data with the promise of earning revenue in an ethical way. The Data Union in the US is another initiative that describes itself as an activist entity to push for personal data ownership as a mechanism to drive change. Again, this approach bears similarities to others and is not necessarily exclusively different.
oneTRANSPORT Data Marketplace service in the UK is a platform for public and private sector organizations to upload mobility data for discovery and monetization. Data holders manage their own data through the platform where it can be accessed by local government and transport authorities for research and planning. oneTRANSPORT offers access to analytics tools as an incentive for using the platform and encourages making datasets more accessible.