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Data ownership, rights and controls: seminar report

Edited by Co-chairs: Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS and Professor Genevra Richardson CBE FBA

Discussions at a British Academy, Royal Society and techUK seminar on 3 October 2018

On 3 October the British Academy, techUK and the Royal Society convened a seminar, which provided an opportunity to explore and understand the concept, value and limitations of the idea of ‘data ownership’. It considered the sound bases from which to consider and probe the concept of data ownership and discussed issues relating to the ability to exert rights and control over data use.

Based on the discussion during the seminar the following key points have been identified as warranting further consideration and discussion moving forward:

• Use of the term “data ownership” raises significant challenges and may be
unsuitable because data is not like property and other goods that can be
owned or exchanged
• Instead discussion should explore the rights and controls individuals, groups
and organisations have over data, and should encompass a societal as well as
individual point of view
• Broader debate could help to better describe the data rights and controls that
are often associated with the concept of ‘data ownership’.
This paper summarises the rich and diverse discussion at the seminar, and is followed
by a set of papers, which provide further explorations of data ownership, rights and

The report also includes short papers exploring the concepts discussed at the seminar by a range of stakeholders. 

Publication part of

Data governance

Data is increasingly important to how we live. This project explores how we can best address the governance challenges for data management and data use, so that data can be harnessed for human flourishing.

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