MyData2018: From Vision to Action - Notes from the Conference

Stefan Reichmann
From August 29 to August 31, Stefan attended the MyData2018 conference in Helsinki, Finland and organized an open space session on the topic of trustworthiness. Ten people from various backgrounds took an hour to debate whether trustworthiness can be a sensible object of certification.


Total votes: 75


Total votes: 79


The discussion moved from trust marks and their potential to help consumers, to general problems associated with certification such as the dynamics generated by software updates and worries about the market not being ready. To complicate matters, it was pointed out that trust (which includes the belief that the object of trust is trustworthy) is a process of continuous validation, not a one-time result of technical efforts. One possible way around this problem might be to consider distrust or untrustworthiness and think about how to forestall it (i.e. what not to do). The question should be about factors that hamper trust formation and ways to avoid them, then. Trust, it was argued, is not a binary predicate (“A trusts B”), but rather a rich and nuanced relationship involving micro- and macro-level considerations such as appearance and trust culture, to name only two.

There might be a positive side to mistrust as well. In many cases a healthy dose of scepticism would be the safer course. Blind trust can give a false sense of security, so when sensitive information is concerned it might be better to act with healthy distrust (after all, eliciting unwarranted trust is the domain of fraudsters and con artists).

Building trust is an exercise in communication (as is reflected in the criteria catalogue). The problem is how to communicate what has been done to foster security. However, this kind of transparency might have adverse consequences – e.g., open source publication might stir distrust because data sets might contain sensitive information.

The project’s preliminary problem solution – a high-level criteria catalogue for trustworthiness – was well-received, but criticized on the grounds that fundamental values are rather abstract and hence difficult to discern and evaluate for ordinary people (one of the participants thoughtfully suggested not to talk about “consumers” or “end-users”, but rather employ the more generic term instead). A different solution developed by krowdthink focuses on accountability and the right to remedy (which might be the same thing); a clearly communicated right to remedy may have an advantage over fundamental values which are abstract and might not be shared by everyone. However, talking about accountability inevitably raises the question of position: Who is accountable to whom under which circumstances?

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