How does data become powerful? Definition of ethical data market

Future Is Here

With the Posmo project, researchers at BFH are developing a trustworthy data space for mobility. Our Scientists are developing and automating a secure market for mobility data for the Posmo cooperative. The ethical governance model guarantees that the protection of privacy is prioritised over economic interests. In the first part, the team describes among other things, the advantages of an ethical data market.

“Knowledge is power”, a well-known Enlightenment slogan formulated by F. Bacon. In the modern world, the key to knowledge is data. Why has there been such a shift in our valuation of information, and consequently, in our practices of obtaining and using knowledge? Given the exponential growth of information volume in today’s society, such an approach to its organization and storage is necessary and more efficient. Therefore, the modern social demand for data can be considered a consequence of the application of mathematical (quantitative) techniques of information`s organization (knowledge).

“Data is the new oil,” is a slogan of the modern digital era. It’s an apt metaphor that reflects the primary characteristic of data as a commodity. Data is valuable not in itself as a finished product, but as a means for making decisions towards achieving a specific goal, whether it’s studying consumer behavior, improving a service, optimizing infrastructure, or increasing sales. However, unlike the traditional understanding of a commodity whose sale implies a transfer of ownership rights, data can be used repeatedly and for various purposes. This feature of data makes it a highly profitable investment.


People are worried that their data could be misused. And it means that sharing their personal data, people are losing control, losing their power of self-determination, as it often happens when deal with a big companies.

Mobility Data for Improving

The greatest interest and value is provided by data about people: their behavior, preferences, needs and problems. With this comes a problem of privacy protection of data. On one hand, personal data describes a specific individual, and its use can have a negative impact on their life. On the other hand, the social dimension of data, such as statistics, provides necessary and reliable information for making decisions capable of significantly improving people’s lives. Today’s globalized world requires the coordination of various actors and production to avoid disasters and ensure a sustainable development. Collecting mobility data in a hyperconnected world helps to improve infrastructure of cities, to optimize traffic management in accident prediction, to monitor and to control public health, to develop retail and business site selection, to make economic analyses and disaster management more efficient, and to reduce air pollution, and the list is not exhaustive.

The optimal tool for a responsible, safe, economically beneficial, and ecologically oriented solution to data privacy/usability dilemma is an ethical data market. Data market platforms provide order, control, efficiency, and safety in transforming personal data into socially significant databases. In a certain sense, ethical data market platforms are not only intermediaries between the data subjects and the data buyers, but rather problem-solvers, taking on the responsibility to conduct the transaction in the best possible way.

A data market is missing yet

Data is a complex commodity. Finding the necessary and representative information is a labor-intensive process that requires time and resources. Meanwhile, it’s challenging for data subjects to monetize it and not to lose control over the usage of their data. This is where the intermediation function of data market platforms comes in: they facilitate the sale not of raw data, but data tailored to the buyer’s specific needs. However, a more crucial factor in this process is security or ensuring trust between transaction participants. Data subjects receive, in addition to monetary compensation, guarantees of protection for personal and commercial confidentiality. Data buyers get databases of the required quality, content, and configuration relative to their objectives. In other words, ethical data market platforms function as problem-solving management. This fact explains the lack of a sufficient number of such data market platforms, the lack of functioning economic models that regulate data usage operations, as well as the lack of research capable of formalizing their activity.

Switzerland needs an ethical data market platform

“Data marketplaces typically offer various types of data for different markets and from different sources”. The main advantages of ethical data market platforms are the availability of necessary data on demand (the required data is already collected, structured, and the rights of their subjects are protected), the timeliness and speed of data retrieval (an active algorithm for verifying data usage requests), and their adaptability to buyer requests (data quality). Therefore, we may admit the acute social demand for ethical data market platforms, especially in Switzerland, where the growth rates of the digital economy is among the most progressive in the world. In this case it is very important that Posmo does not disempower their participants and customers. Posmo is a cooperative, and all partners are able to participate in decision-making processes. All data producers are able to predict the way and the content of every data exchange (which data and when it was shared). Besides, real data never leaves the platform without anonymisation and security protection. How is it done? We are going to highlight it in the next articles.

About the Project

The Posmo (POSitive MObility) Cooperative collects mobility data of a quality not previously available in Switzerland. Besides serving as a basis for decision-making for the design of more-sustainable mobility, the data will be made available for research, urban development or mobility planning in a data market. The goal of the Cooperative is not economic profit, but to make a vital contribution to a better future for Switzerland. Since mobility data is highly sensitive in terms of privacy, in a previous Innocheque project Posmo worked with researchers from the Institute for Data Applications and Security IDAS on drafting an initial concept for the ethical data market, which is now to be developed further.

More Information you find here.

Creative Commons Licence

AUTHOR: Olena Yatsenko

Olena Yatsenko is visiting reseacher at the Laboratory of Virtual Reality and robotics at the Bern University of Applied sciences and University philosophy lecturer at the National Pedagogical Drahomanov University (Kiyv, Ukraine).

AUTHOR: Maël Gassmann

Maël Gassmann works as an assistant in the Institute for Data Applications and Security IDAS at the Bern University of Applied Sciences. He has studied computer science with a specialization in IT security.

AUTHOR: Dominic Baumann

Dominic Baumann works as an assistant in the Institute for Data Applications and Security IDAS at the Bern University of Applied Sciences. He is studying computer science with a specialisation in IT security.

AUTHOR: Annett Laube

Annett Laube is a lecturer in computer science at BFH Technik & Informatik and heads the Institute for Data Applications and Security (IDAS). She has technical responsibility for the science magazine SocietyByte, in particular for the focus on Digital Identity, Privacy & Cybersecurity.

Create PDF

Related Posts

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *