Data is a powerful commodity in the fourth-industrial revolution, leading to publications and economists declaring it as “the new oil”. 

Whilst that statement has been criticised, it doesn’t detract from the point that yes, data is much sought-after from companies and government institutions alike.

However, a study carried out the by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and YouGov in the UK, shows the generational differences between British adults and their approaches to data sharing. 

Young adults, aged 18-24, are generally more comfortable sharing information about themselves compared to older generations. For instance, 20 percent said they would feel comfortable sharing their data of birth with an organisation they didn’t know.

As well, 25 percent said they trusted social media companies with their personal data.

For adults aged 45-54, only eight percent said they would share their birth date. In addition, only five percent said they trusted social media companies with their data.

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Overall, 34 percent of respondents say nothing would make them feel more comfortable about sharing data about themselves. This is despite it being a regular part of our daily lives in 2018.

What was said:

Dr Jeni Tennison, ODI’s chief executive officer, said:

“When data is working hard for consumers, it should help them make better decisions, save money and present them with wider benefits and opportunities. This survey shows that more people need to understand how to share data to reap these rewards.

“‘At the ODI we want consumers to feel more confident and informed about data. Data literacy is not a solution for all problems — we will always need strong regulation and well-designed, ethical services — but it is part of the answer to building and retaining trust in data.”

Why it matters:

Despite the supposed distrust of these companies, the majority of UK adults are using them regularly.

According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) report on internet usage in 2017, 96 percent of adults aged 16-24 use social media. This compares to 68 percent of adults aged 45-54 using sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Consumers sign over huge amounts of personal data when they join social media. From location data, to their birthday and email address, whether not they trust the company, they’re still offering up this information.

And if you’re using a free service, like Google for email, people are paying with their data. This creates a difference between a consumer, who has rights, and the user, who doesn’t, according to Professor Luciano Floridi, professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford.

When speaking at the TechUK AI Ethics conference in London last year, Floridi said

“Most people are users, not consumers. They’re getting it for free, so they are giving up their rights, and this is crucial. We’re not talking about consumers.

“If something goes wrong in a free area, you can blame the user.”

As a result, the ODI makes the point that people need to become for data literate. That could be in formal educational environments or informal environments for those not in full-time education.

When the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force later in May, it is hoped that people will become more aware of the data companies collect on them.