Reclaiming Data Trusts
Large-scale data sharing is not the only way — or even the most important way — to use data trusts in the public interest.
For most people, “data trust” is a new term. Yet, over the past year, it has been increasingly and frequently referenced in technology and policy circles. This quick move out of obscurity — driven at least in part by Sidewalk Toronto’s proposal to use a civic data trust as part of their smart city development — has inspired a small explosion of documents taking a position on what, exactly, a data trust is.
Data trusts, like any tool with the potential to affect power, are occupying a politically contested space, and the private sector is taking note too; a consulting and software market focused on trusts is quickly emerging. As a result, the public dialogue is being shaped by large, well-financed interests trying to maximize data sharing. But, large-scale privately-driven data sharing is not the only way — or even the most important way — to use data trusts in the public interest, and those practices certainly shouldn’t define the policy environment around fiduciary data governance.