Interview with Jeni Tennison

“We want to promote the safe, fair, legal and equitable sharing of data”

In an interview, Jeni Tennison, Co-Chair of the GPAI Data Governance Working Group, discusses the need for fair data sharing through the creation of global data trusts.

What was the task assigned to your Working Group?

Our working group has been tasked with gathering evidence, shaping research, undertaking applied artificial intelligence projects and providing expertise on data governance, in order to promote the collection, use, sharing, archiving and deletion of data for AI in a manner consistent with human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, economic growth and societal benefits, while seeking to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

You have focused on two projects this year: one on data justice and the other on global data trusts. Could you tell us about the data trusts project?

Data trusts are a concept that is talked about as a way of providing better data governance over data that is shared by individuals, or sometimes organisations.  But different people do have different ideas about the details of how they work. As a Working Group, we have agreed on a set of key characteristics for data trusts, which includes a clear purpose, a legal structure and constitution, and trustees. A data trust must also respect certain rights and obligations over data management and have established decision-making processes, a description of how the benefits will be distributed and sustainable funding. In our project, our ambition is to support new data trusts that enable individuals and communities to enforce their data rights, while ensuring that data sharing activities reflect the diverse interests of society. The aim of the project is to help the GPAI realize the potential of data trusts as a tool to promote the safe, fair, legal and equitable sharing of data in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are looking at what data trusts currently exist, and at the legal contexts in different countries that support. This project has been commissioned by the Aapti Institute and the Open Data Institute, in collaboration with the Cambridge Data Trusts Initiative, and is co-led by Neil Lawrence and Seongtak Oh.

What are your plans for next year?

As part of the data trusts project, we will be looking specifically at issues related to the use of data trusts in the context of climate issues. In our other project, which focuses on data justice, we will be developing guidance for policymakers, developers and communities affected by the collection and use of data in order to consider the issues of social and economic justice in their relation with data. We intend to launch a project around the theme of the development and adoption of trustworthy privacy-enhancing technologies.  The objective of this project will be to demonstrate how technology can provide a means to collect, use and share data securely, while preserving privacy, sovereignty and intellectual property rights. Our Working Group intends to explore how these approaches could be used to support the goals of other GPAI Working Groups, such as medecine discovery and climate action.

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