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  • The Digital Person 
 the State of the Art and Science

    A White Paper from the 2nd Wolfson - HAT International Symposium on the Digital Person

    18 Feb 2019 

  • Contents

    Executive Summary 1

    Data Analytics, Data Science and Technology 3 Personal Data and Data Analytics 3 Discrimination and Big Data Analytics 3

    Digital Personhood, Freedom and Democracy 4 Identity in a Networked World 4 Self-Sovereign Identity 4

    Value, Economics and Markets 4 Capability to “Speak” Data 5 Digital Innovation 5 Awareness of Problematic Personal Data Issues 6 Other Issues of Digital Identity 7 Other Issues of Personal Data in Economic and Business Domain 7

    Implications 7

    Recommendations 8 Paradigm shift in Personalisation 9 Digital Trust 9 Equal Opportunity 9 Digital Culture 10 Engage Both Sides of the Divide 10 Restore Clarity 10 Taxation of Data 10

    Conclusion 11

    Speakers 1

    Panellists 1

    About the Symposium 2

    Authors 2

    For further information contact 2

    To cite 2

  • Executive Summary

    In the digital era, what we do is to a great extent reflected in the digital world. We are now physical persons with a digital twin; in short, a digital person with digital personas entwined with the physical aspects of our lives. The digital person has the right and freedom over how we choose to portray ourselves in the digital world, be it truth or fiction. Thus, the digital person could become very controversial. The focus of the Symposium was to elicit a conversation on the challenges and opportunities brought about by being a digital person. This paper reports the discussion of the 2nd Wolfson/HAT International Symposium on the Digital Person 31 May 2018. The symposium was chaired by Professor Irene Ng, representing the social sciences, Professor Jon Crowcroft, representing the sciences and Professor John Naughton, representing the humanities.

    The symposium defined a digital person as ‘personal data , personalised’. Companies depend on personal 1 data generated to understand what is real about individuals, and what motivate individuals to behave in certain ways. Personal data has become the new fuel in the 21st century, feeding our digital economies even while enabling individuals to interact online. While technological advancement has seen the development of new data science tools and methods such as AI and machine learning, their increased application on personal data has an impact on identity, privacy and values. These challenges often arise from the lack of clarity and understanding of personal data and its capabilities.

    Personal data has been defined and studied through different disciplines and perspectives such as technology, law, economics, sociology and humanity, but in order to address the challenges and opportunities of personal data, a trans-—disciplinary approach was needed in its manifestation of a digital person . The Symposium sought to enhance the understanding of the digital person and its impact on 2 society. Hence, it discussed the issues, opportunities, and tensions arising from personal data from three main perspectives - humanities, science and social sciences. The Symposium consisted of three segments focused on the issues about from these three perspectives, eliciting discussions among panellists who raised further issues to be explored in future symposiums and in future research. Implications and recommendations for the digital person from social, legal, economic, business, technical, and policy perspectives were also discussed.

    From the Sciences

    This segment of the symposium focusing on the sciences explored the topics of data analytics, data science and technology. Key points were:

    • Privacy issues were largely cause by centralisation of personal data • Decentralised technologies now exist to emerge a better model for data sharing • Centralisation of data that resulted in “big data” creates issues of privacy, fairness and transparency

    and usage of data will entail trade offs between them.

    Personal data refers to data about a person or data generated by a person, the latter also known as Human 1 Generated Data. Data labelled as personally identifiable data would be deemed as a subset of personal data.

    In computer science, personal data is a bitstring; in information systems, personal data is stored information; in the 2 study of sociology or behavioural sciences, personal data is behaviour; in economics, personal data is an asset; in humanities, personal data is a record of our personhood.

  • From the Humanities

    This segment of the symposium focusing on the humanities explored the topics of digital personhood, freedom and democracy. Key points were:

    • Identity needs to be reimagined as our digital and physical worlds become more entangled • Surveillance capitalism is now the dominant form of capitalism • Self sovereign identity will soon be a reality

    From the Social Sciences

    This segment of the symposium focusing on the Social Sciences explored the topics of value, economics and markets. Key points were:

    • Personal data “signals” face market failure and society needs better data sharing models • Decentralisation create new models for data sharing • Identity is an “assemblage” of digital and socio-material that creates value for person or firms • Privacy is a function of value

    The symposium then continued to discuss the issues and implications and provided recommendations on personalisation and digital trust; creating equal opportunities and a better digital culture; engaging both sides of the divide, promoting clarity and addressing the taxation of data.


  • Data Analytics, Data Science and Technology

    This segment of the Symposium focused on problematic issues regarding data (including personal data and big data) brought on by data technology such as the ubiquity of the Internet and connected things, as well as data science tools and data analytics. Solutions – technical and otherwise – were discussed.

    Personal Data and Data Analytics Imperial College’s Dr Hamed Haddadi discussed the challenges of personal data embedded in a data ecosystem. With the ubiquity of Internet and IoT devices (such as smart metres, IoT monitors) a large amount of data is generated around us. Indeed, a lot of inferred data could be derived from the data around us. When we are ‘on’ the social media and use wearable devices, we generate data of us. In the digital world, we leave a data trail about us, but we are not aware of its surrounding issues. Our personal data could be harvested and traded by trackers across the world. These issues could impose a great threat to the privacy and security of personal data. Moreover, the current dominant approach to personal data is centralisation. This centralisation of personal data and the associated data analytics could bring forth further challenges such as real-time control and adaptation, scalability, accountability and liability, algorithmic bias, and the privacy and security of personal data. These issues need to be addressed to exploit opportunities with personal data, and Haddadi proposed potential technical solutions. First, we should give the control of data management back to users. Second, we could shift centralised data analytics towards user-centric and contextual analytics. And third, we could apply other new technical approaches for personal data, such as ambient sensing, actuation, and Human Data Interaction.

    Discrimination and Big Data Analytics Dr Augustine Chaintreau from Columbia University discussed issues in commerce, information and politics brought about by the data revolution and big data analytics. He proposed that the challenge lies in reconciling big data with our values. For example, customers could face price discrimination based on information such as gender or race, along with biased information like segregated advertisements. It gets wo


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