Restoring Confidence in Open, Shared and Personal Data

Report of the UK Digital Government Review: “It is obvious that government needs to be able to use data both to deliver services and to present information to public view. How else would government know which bank account to place a pension payment into, or a citizen know the results of an election or how to contact their elected representatives?

As more and more data is created, preserved and shared in ever-increasing volumes a number of urgent questions are begged: over opportunities and hazards; over the importance of using best-practice techniques, insights and technologies developed in the private sector, academia and elsewhere; over the promises and limitations of openness; and how all this might be articulated and made accessible to the public.

Government has already adopted “open data” (we will discuss this more in the next section) and there are now increasing calls for government to pay more attention to data analytics and so-called “big data” – although the first faltering steps to unlock benefits, here, have often ended in the discovery that using large-scale data is a far more nuanced business than was initially assumed

Debates around government and data have often been extremely high-profile – the NHS [27] debate was raging while this review was in progress – but they are also shrouded in terms that can generate confusion and complexities that are not easily summarized.

In this chapter we will unpick some of these terms and some parts of the debate. This is a detailed and complex area and there is much more that could have been included [28]. This is not an area that can easily be summarized into a simple bullet-pointed list of policies.

Within this report we will use the following terms and definitions, proceeding to a detailed analysis of each in turn:

Type of Data

Definition [29]


1. Open Data Data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike Insolvency notices in the London Gazette
Government spending information
Public transport information
Official National Statistics
2. Shared Data Restricted data provided to restricted organisations or individuals for restricted purposes National Pupil Database
Integrated health and social care
Individual census returns
3. Personal Data Data that relate to a living individual who can be identified from that data. For full legal definition see [30] Health records
Individual tax records
Insolvency notices in the London gazette
National Pupil Database
NB These definitions overlap. Personal data can exist in both open and shared data.

This social productivity will help build future economic productivity; in the meantime it will improve people’s lives and it will enhance our democracy. From our analysis it was clear that there was room for improvement…”