Open data conversations tend to start with very technical talk around APIs and what data we want access to. However, the real conversation is what enables data sharing – and in my view the key enabler is trust.
The technical issues pale into insignificance compared with the challenge of building and getting community trust.
I think there are three areas where we are at risk of being caught short.
Breaches are going to happen
Nevertheless, We must turn our attention to how we handle these breaches.
Data breach scandals abound overseas, in large part due to mandatory disclosure laws. Next year, as our equivalent data breach laws come into effect, we can expect to be shocked and dismayed.
In recent times, the data breach of our very own Medicare records revealed in July and the Equifax data breach affecting 143 million people in the US in September have all increased sensitivities.
Mandatory breach notification is necessary because, frankly, the risk of identity theft is directly related to those kinds of breaches and the only way to manage risk for the community is to make sure people know when they are at risk.
I wish we could stop breaches being a problem, and that must be the goal, but we must also be honest that breaches will happen.
That means our focus also needs to turn to how we communicate, mitigate and remediate at the time of a breach and collectively learn and improve. We also need to get on the front foot in educating the community about the steps they can take to be data safe (not to mention savvy).
For a start, I would like data rich organisations to start engaging on the data risk issue at a broader level than the historical IT focus.
Data must be shared with the right controls in place
Identity, in my opinion, is the elephant in the room when data sharing is concerned. We need to enable people to prove who they are so they can gain access to data they have a right to – but no more.
Importantly, the identity solution must be both easy to implement and use, and work across the public and private sectors.
Most of the focus on identity to date has pivoted around the needs of governments and their agencies, with private sector use a secondary issue.
Data sharing will drive exponential demand in identity services.
Australia is a leader in new approaches to identity, our record is pretty good and we shouldn’t go into cultural cringe mode and assume something offshore is better.
However, in the face of accelerating demand we need a step up to meet the data challenge.
We must respect the values and culture of our community
Some cultures can handle more centralised control of information, but I suspect that Australians are at the other end of the spectrum.
The Australian political class seem to steer clear of any kind of universal identification due to the shadow of the failed Australia Card, whereas many in the data community think that is the answer. I disagree with many of my peers for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t think we need central identity to get the job done and secondly, I don’t think as a community we want that outcome.
It’s not just the breach risk of encouraging massive honeypots of individual level data (including identity data) that I struggle with. I also think we need to reflect on community values when we consider uses for data of any kind. Let’s not forget ourselves in the excitement of what technology enables.
I doubt the voting public would be excited about a citizen score of the kind that is already in place in China via the Sesame Score.
I believe that massive value from data can be unlocked without compromising the privacy of the individual. And, I believe that for Australia, finding solutions that reflect our culture and values will lead us towards a major export opportunity.
Why wouldn’t communities around the world who share our values and sentiments want to leverage the federated, high integrity data sharing framework that we are more than capable of developing.
Lisa Schutz is the CEO of Verifier, a regtech company that enables people to share their super and payroll data to prove income and fast-track loan applications.
She was the moderator of the digital identity panel at the Collab/Collide Summit on 2 November as part of the Intersekt Festival.