Data activists working to make data collection and use more salient, ethical and beneficial to the well-being of humanity.


We live in a big data age, where keeping up with the implications and impacts of big data in our everyday lives is nearly a full-time endeavour. The speed and range of data collection are ever increasing. Some collection is voluntary, such as when we sign up for a platform or service and provide personal information. Increasingly, much of it is collected passively, or involuntarily, like geo-location from cell or Wi-Fi signal tracking, for example. Even more significant is the prevalence of practices of brokering data that is collected without you actually entering it – your browser history, likes, the time you spend on certain sites and how often your return to them, what you view before and after that, and so on.

The data that wafts off your digital activities, be they online or anywhere that you interact with technology – for transportation, payments, or anything that registers your presence – is collected by search engines, business analytics, browser providers, etc., and stored so that it can be commercially traded with other entities, usually business. When you sign on to a service, platform, etc, data collection policies typically require that you agree to what in essence is a unilateral agreement about what data they can collect, what they can do with your data, whether and how it can be deleted, and so on.

The main point is that the policy more often than not amounts to an ultimatum: “sign the policy, or you can’t use the service, platform, etc”. Some policies are more pro-individual data rights, and this is a standard that we at Human Data Commons are working to shine a light on and encourage more wide-spread adaption of policies like this. Why? Because data rights and best practices are fundamental to the digital future being a liveable, equitable world-space for all humans. “Data is the new oil” is an expression in the industry that hints at the value of this resource.

HDC is a sober voice in the current gold-rush fervour for various entities to stake claim to as much data territory as possible. We co-create and spread data-use standards in order to evolve past the colonialism in this new world space. We work towards equitable economic benefit to producers or sources of data, as well as those who harvest it.  Through facilitating participatory discourse, big data education and promotion of industry standards, HDC is building a more inclusive and liveable digital world-space for all.