Hub of All Things – Pilot Results

Basic Pilot Data

Company name: Hub of All Things

  • Type of Industry: Internet of Things
  • Pilot: Privacy and data protection

Interview with Xiao Ma,  HAT Data Exchange Ltd. Founder

‘ Once we started working with the Prisma community we found we’re not alone, we realized there’s a whole school of people who are doing similar approach as we do, we’re also learning from the community on different ways and in best practices of implementing ethical research and innovation.
Xiao Ma,  HAT Data Exchange Ltd. Founder and Warwick University Senior Fellow’.

The first video (with an introduction by Prof. Tom Sorell from Warwick University) focuses on the embedded ethicist approach for this pilot.

The second video discusses challenges with respect to personal data and privacy.

About the Company

HAT is a personal data platform for firms to offer individuals services for their data in a scalable way, yet allowing individuals to control the data rights given to firms. Importantly, the HAT and its transformed data is owned by the individual. For firms, the HAT opens opportunities for exchanges and use of personal data in a way that is privacy preserving, real time and on demand. Firms can

  1. build smart devices that individuals can control and acquire the data on the device onto their HAT;
  2. build smart applications for individuals to make use of their data; or
  3. help individuals exchange their data for better buying decisions, personalisation and recommendation
  4. not need to hoard data as firms can request for data in real time and on demand whenever needed and only while the user is using the service.

The enterprise grows out of a series of university-based research projects.

The Pilot / Challenge

The focus of the pilot was the question: How to bring in normative issues at an early stage of technology development? For this pilot the normative issues are privacy and data ownership by individuals.  As mentioned above: The HAT ecosystem is the first-ever personal data exchange ecosystem that enables individuals and organisations to exchange data directly between individuals and organisations without third party involvement.
For this pilot we used the embedded ethicist approach.

Results / Recommendations

The efforts of the HAT community to take the lead at the public and intellectual level in the areas of the theory of data ownership and data privacy are laudable. This is manifested in several places including in the publication of papers and online articles on the topic by HAT developers, the MadHatters newsletter, and the organisation of the Wolfson-HAT seminar series. The work in this direction is a model for other technology developers in bringing normative issues in at an early stage of technology development.

Our general advice is that HAT continue and deepen such work, and in doing so offer a yet richer body of answers to the questions that the idea of a personal data exchange raises. More specifically we proposed:

  • Further investigation of the ways in which HAT activity falls in to RRI categories.
    The RRI brand has some cache with funding bodies, and the translation of HAT’s activities into RRI terms might have the advantage of making its work more attractive to funding bodies who formally recognise RRI and from whom HAT seeks funding. Furthermore, RRI has some functional value that may supplement the existing efforts of the HAT as a social enterprise. For instance, HAT might seek certification as a B Corp.
  • Exploration of possible tensions between HAT’s role as improving data security and HAT’s role as improving data privacy or control.
    The personal data exchange is sometimes advocated on the grounds that it is personal, and sometimes advocated on the grounds that it provides for exchange. The extent to which these two goals overlap or conflict is central to understanding the HAT’s social appeal. On one hand, the HAT provides for a complicated architecture in which each individual’s information is kept in a separate database. This seeks to provide not only practical security of data, but also legal ownership and control, since there is legal precedent for the ownership of databases if not data itself. On the other hand, HAT allows people to extract the value from their own data, thereby escaping the apparently exploitative nature of the online economy. However, it may be the case that the easier it is for data to be exchanged, the less it will be ensiloed within the HAT’s secure architecture, being instead held and mediated by third parties. We propose further understanding of this possible trade-off and the desirability of different points upon it.
  • Emphasis on the democratisation of the marketplace.
    It appears that a great deal of the effective power of the HAT in providing people with control of their data occurs in the specifics of the governance of the marketplace in personal data that it proposes. It is in principle possible for HATs to be ubiquitous but for data only to be tradable in marketplaces that freely allow third party trades and thereby seem exploitative in just the same way that the current online economy seems exploitative. Indeed the current HAT cannot provide ‘first point of access’ personal data silos; it provides auxiliary silos for combining existing data sets that are stored and controlled elsewhere, such as on Google or Facebook servers. This suggests that a central part of the HAT’s offering in giving people control of their data is in writing and enforcement of the codes of practice that govern the bodies who can connect to HATs, rather than in the existence of HATs themselves. The organisation already has gone to some lengths to consult stakeholders and democratise this process; our advice is that since the distinctive offering of HAT depends upon this process, efforts at democratisation of the marketplace should remain central.