The Academy of Social Sciences responds to the Cabinet Office consultation on Better use of Data in government

25 April 2016

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The Academy of Social Sciences has responded to the Cabinet Office consultation on Better use of Data in government.

Headlines from the response include:

• Legislation on de-identified data for statistical and research use raises different privacy issues from that in the rest of the proposed legislation, and separation of these different uses should be considered.
• The social sciences have long had robust methods for ensuring transparent and independent scrutiny of proposals for using de-identified data for research, including the involvement of lay members of the public. We are pleased to see the proposed legislation recognises these models.
• The legislation may be helpful in clarifying the legal situation, but it will require a culture change in Whitehall before data are opened up for research analysis for public benefit. We propose ways that the legislation might help promote that culture change, which would ensure greater public scrutiny.
• Data safeguards are not only a result of the characteristics of the data themselves (how ‘de-identified’ they are) but also other safeguards, (the five safes) which the social sciences have pioneered.
• The Academy is strongly of the view that allowing data access to administrative data is an important form of democratic scrutiny, provided that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect privacy and ensure that the proposed research is scientifically and ethically sound, and genuinely for public benefit.

Read the full response here.