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Data held by industry should be used ‘for public good’, says Shah

Personal data collected by companies such as Facebook should be treated as intellectual property and released to the public after a limited time in the same way drug patents expire after a given period, the head of the Royal Statistical Society has said.

Hetan Shah, the society’s executive director, told Research Fortnight that data “held in a pretty untransparent way for relatively untransparent purposes” should be made available for use in research that would benefit society.

Without some form of intervention, technology companies may retain exclusive access to “large, very valuable personal data sets” 15 or 20 years after collecting them. “In that scenario, most of us would think we’ve lost out on something that could have been held in some kind of collective way, which could be really useful for the common good,” he said.

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