I attended 2gether08 today for the afternoon and walked into a very interesting discussion on making data public. Now following the Free Our Data campaign from the Guardian I've had a keen interest on the subject. Many points were discussed from innovating on this newly available data, to cost savings for doing so through to privacy issues surrounding private data (such as medical records) and data which people seem to give away freely through social sites such as Facebook and finally data which people give away to serve a better experience (think supermarket club card, or Google search).
One of the interesting points raised was about who the public tend to put their trust in, and maybe not so surprisingly, it's not the government. There is a trend that people are giving or putting more data into corporate entities, be they your favoured supermarket, accountant or bank. An interesting point was raised by Paul Downey that although he does online banking, he doesn't have the same trust in Yahoo! to mashup his banking data through Pipes or some other such technology, this is mainly due to banks be regulated authorities.
The conversation moved on and touched upon escrow like accounts for personal data and this got me thinking about identity. As we move towards tools like OpenID and OAuth, the thought occurred to me, would you log into your bank with your OpenID? If your OpenID provider isn't regulated, or even in the same country as you, would you trust it enough with potential access to your online bank? Let me turn that question around a bit now, if you're OpenID provider was a regulated authority, perhaps the bank in question or even some government department - would that change your answer?
The final question left in my mind was, that with a few people thinking about decentralised escrow like data accounts, could you trust people to look after their own data? I know that when I carry my passport with me, I get slightly paranoid. I also know that after losing 2 or 3 hard discs over the last 10 years, I'm not sure I'd want that responsibility. What I do know is that I hate repeating myself, and if government bodies can share data easier between themselves, and if there's a way I can authorise companies to share my data in a way that makes my life easier to lead, I might just buy into that.
I suppose with the level of data that may become available, the responsibility may shift somewhat with who owns, maintains and secures that data.