New Reports on Personal Data Focus on Trust, Privacy and Transparency


William H. Dutton, incoming Director of MSU’s Quello Center, and Quello Chair of Media and Information Policy, was the lead author of one of three new reports released by the World Economic Forum on strengthening trust, transparency and privacy in personal data usage. The reports are part of the WEF’s Rethinking Personal Data initiative, which was launched in 2010.

“I hope this initiative leads the industry and other key actors to assume leadership in addressing the concerns of users over their privacy and rights to free expression – concerns that are documented by our research,” Dutton said. “No one should be complacent about the continued vitality of the Internet.”

Rethinking Personal Data: A New Lens for Strengthening Trust, prepared in collaboration with A.T. Kearney, looks at how to enhance transparency and accountability in the use of personal data. It argues that a user-centered approach is the best way of achieving this. Individuals must have more of a say in how their data is used and should be able to use the data for their own purposes.

“In order to build a truly sustainable personal data economy, regaining the trust of individuals over the use of their data is imperative,” said Naveen Menon, Partner and APAC Head of Communications, Media and Technology at A.T. Kearney. “This means finding new ways to connect and provide them with choices that enable them to return to a sense of control over data usage.”

Supporting this analysis are two quantitative studies that look at the issues of trust, privacy and framework through the eyes of users. Rethinking Personal Data: Trust and Context in User-Centered Data Ecosystems, an empirical study across different countries, examines the importance of context-aware data usage and how it impacts trust.

The Internet Trust Bubble: Global Values, Beliefs and Practices uses the results from a survey of 16,000 respondents to assess the attitudes and behavior of Internet users globally. It shows that individuals are on the whole positive about the opportunities offered by the Internet, particularly related to freedom of expression. However, the report highlights concerns over privacy, surveillance and security.

The Rethinking Personal Data initiative brings together private companies, public sector representatives, end-user privacy and rights groups, academics and topic experts to examine how to create a principled, collaborative and balanced personal-data ecosystem. Executives from AT&T, A.T. Kearney, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Telefonica, VimpelCom and Visa are on its steering board.

Dutton currently is Professor of Internet Studies at the University of Oxford. He also is a Professorial Fellow of Balliol College and is the Founding Director of Oxford’s Internet Institute, a position he held from 2002 to 2011. He will begin his new position as Director and Chair of the Quello Center in August 2014.

Located in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University, the Quello Center was established in 1998 to be a worldwide focal point for excellence in research, teaching and the development and application of telecommunication management and policy.

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Interview with Alessandro Acquisti, speaker for the 2013 Quello Lecture: Privacy in the Age of Augmented Reality


Alessandro Acquisti is an associate professor at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the co-director of CMU Center for Behavioral and Decision Research. He investigates the economics of privacy. His studies have spearheaded the application of behavioral economics to the analysis of privacy and information security decision making, and the analysis of privacy and disclosure behavior in online social networks. Alessandro has been the recipient of the PET Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies, the IBM Best Academic Privacy Faculty Award, multiple Best Paper awards, the Heinz College School of Information’s Teaching Excellence Award. He has testified before the U.S. Senate and House committees on issues related to privacy policy and consumer behavior, and was a TED Global 2013 speaker.

Alessandro’s findings have been featured in national and international media outlets, including the Economist, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Financial Times,, NPR, and CNN. His 2009 study on the predictability of Social Security numbers was featured in the “Year in Ideas” issue of the NYT Magazine (the SSNs assignment scheme was changed by the US Social Security Administration in 2011). Alessandro holds a PhD from UC Berkeley, and Master degrees from UC Berkeley, the London School of Economics, and Trinity College Dublin. He has held visiting positions at the Universities of Rome, Paris, and Freiburg (visiting professor); Harvard University (visiting scholar); University of Chicago (visiting fellow); Microsoft Research (visiting researcher); and Google (visiting scientist). He has been a member of the National Academies’ Committee on public response to alerts and warnings using social media.

Watch Dr. Acquisti’s interview:


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