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Restrictions on data flow and information sharing

The flow of digital data is recognized as a critical driver of economic growth and innovation. It enables positive economic impacts, the sharing of ideas and information, the dissemination of knowledge, and the collaboration of individuals, organizations, and governments.

However, despite these significant benefits, without the ability to share some but not all data; policies, practices, and proprietary and legacy systems will continue forming an array of barriers that impede the free flow of data. Current policies are designed to permit all or no information sharing, and we lack a universally accepted system to allow for only partial sharing.

This "all or nothing" flow of attributes, data and information drives our world and generates a number of challenges that must be addressed. These include:

Identity theft and cybersecurity breaches

From hacking networks to steal personal information, to security breaches, and attacks that undermine trust and political processes, the scope of cyber attacks is steadily growing. According to a recent report over 5,200 breaches have compromised more than 7.8 billion records during the last year.

Cyber insurance data also documents that almost 90% of all cyber claims stem from human error or behavior. The highest risks to privacy and security are at the ends of the network, the places where people access and authorize data use. Humans, even those with cyber-savvy skills and competencies are at the mercy of the security systems on the technology they use. Fragmented islands of data and functionality Today, data is held in multiple records, stove piped on different architectures and lost among regulations, contracts, and policies that build fragmented islands of information. As a result, organizations and individuals are unable to benefit not just from new ideas, technologies, and best practices that accompany quality, privacy-preserving data flows but also the day to day goods and services that rely on data.

Lack of privacy and individual control Legitimate concerns over privacy and confidentiality affect data flow as a source of wellbeing. Now, perhaps more than ever before, consumer anxiety about privacy is intensified when people realize that they do not know which organizations have their data, what is known about them, and how they are using - or misusing- their own information.

The traditional enterprise-centric system and its own mechanisms for enforcing security policies have failed to keep information safe and secure. Companies control the access to data and survey user activity to reliably implement security policies. Yet despite these actions, they are still unable to protect information and worse, unable to provide or enforce meaningful individual control. Ineffective personalization Multiple systems and organizations maintain different identifiers that keep them apart from accessing comprehensive information, or agreeing when they are talking about the same person. Unifying and leveraging data – so what people are experiencing is valuable and personalized – cannot continue to be sacrificed. More specifically, this is beginning to be seen in the healthcare area where personalized medicine is opening a bright future of opportunities that lead to better care for patients and ultimately benefit low-income communities with high burdens of disease.

Complex regulatory compliance

Given the unprecedented amount of data collected and the lack of privacy and security, it is not surprising that information privacy regulations are becoming more complex and comprehensive. Failing to protect sensitive data can lead to regulatory investigations, sanctions, and lawsuits. Today, companies need to comply with a wide range of strict security and privacy rules that come from multiple jurisdictions. This fragmented and complex regulatory framework varies fundamentally, creating restrictions on data flow and obstacles to guaranteeing privacy across the world. Lack of trust among stakeholders

Widespread “all or nothing” data sharing as a driver of wellbeing is not sustainable without trust and transparency. People and organizations cannot agree on consistent policies or trust each other to share their most sensitive data, and individuals are kept from the data needed to advance research, innovation, and wellbeing. Building trust and confidence in the online world is a fundamental challenge to ensure that the opportunities emerging from the flow of information can be fully leveraged.

In brief, data potential is enormous, but to unleash those benefits, it is necessary to address the biggest restrictions on data flow and information sharing. To do so, we must establish privacy-preserving architectures that allow individuals, organizations and technologies to protect information without affecting the possibility to analyze, link, and use the data needed to create growth and value.

(This post is based on an EP3 Foundation's article published by Government Europa Quarterly, Issue 27. Read the full article here)

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