Case study: Your Data Stories

Project Title: YourDataStories

Project Description: The proposed solution refers to a web platform for re-purposing data into news and vice versa based on Web 3.0 technologies. The underlying Data as a Service (DaaS) architecture will enable professional and simple users to discover, remix, publish and monitor their digital content under the same or different context. Your Data Stories platform basically will facilitate the re-purposing of digital content with existing data resources and news feeds originating both from Web 2.0 and 3.0 applications. The sustainability of the platform will be based on a hybrid business model. On one hand, simple users will enjoy a range of services, such as online tools to re-purpose open data to news feeds and posts in social media and vice versa, with no cost up to a certain level under a freemium model. On the other hand, more sophisticated and customized solutions will be offered for a fee to professional users. The proposed solution will be focused on providing more structure on the existing data sources (e.g. public finances, Eurostat, Europeana) and the tools to re-mix these sources with existing data residing on the internal information systems (e.g. ERP/CRM for a company and social media streams and contacts lists for an individual).

Introduction

Your Data Stories is a H2020 project that uses and links Open Data from different sources with a view to enabling journalists and others to find stories within the data.

At present, the project is focusing on data pertaining to road building within the EU and it links information from Tenders Electronic Daily – a database that publishes full details of any EU tenders above €150,000.

Since this research uses Open Data, there are no data protection issues as such, but an interesting issue has arisen regarding legal liability:

 

  1. Anonymising data

Your Data Stories uses Open Data. All of the information it publishes is openly available elsewhere. Your Data Stories combines it and brings it all together but the different aspects of the information are freely available.

However, a decision has been made, within the project, to retract the company and individual names pertaining to the data it publishes. The names are available on Tenders Electronic Daily, for example, but Your Data Stories does not publish them alongside the data it has combined.

Since these names are publicly available, anonymisation is not a prerequisite for compliance. The problem arises only if YDS engages in profiling activities that may create some liability under the General Data Protection Regulation, especially when such profiling is a result of combined data from diverse sources. So, to cut a long story short, liability depends on the course, type and extent of processing. Allow me to add at this point that personal data refers to people, not to legal entities, thus collecting, listing and processing the names of corporations would at no case equal to no liability whatsoever neither under the GDPR nor under any other accepted legal framework of the global personal data ecosystem.

However, without the names of the associated companies and individuals the usefulness of the Your Data Stories project to journalists and others is weakened. However, when the project could find itself in legal difficulty under any one of the 27 separate systems, the decision is understandable.

Key question 1: Should the names be anonymised? Is the public interest in knowing what the data shows greater than the risk to the project itself?

Key question 2: Is the lack of legal harmonisation between EU member states hampering research? Does a member state’s right for legal self-determination outweigh the research benefits that could arise from such harmonisation? Will these issues be resolved with the introduction of the GDPR?

Key question 3: Is there a case to be made for research projects in the public interest having some sort of exemption in this regard? Is this kind of project one that should qualify for such exemptions?

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