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Trust & Technology Initiative


The Data Trusts Initiative

Existing laws already provide a variety of data rights, but exercising them can demand considerable knowledge, time, and energy. These legislative frameworks also struggle to cope with a data environment where data can be used and re-used in different ways. These changing patterns of data use put pressure on our traditional forms of data governance. 

Reaping the benefits of data and digital technologies will require robust new institutions or frameworks that can allow data sharing - helping develop new data-enabled products and services - while protecting individual rights and freedoms. Data trusts offer a mechanism to achieve this goal. 

A data trust is a mechanism for individuals to take the data rights that are set out in law and pool these into an organisation - a trust - in which trustees make decisions about data use on their behalf. These trusts have received widespread attention in recent years from policymakers across the world. Further action is now needed to identify how data trusts could help tackle real-world data governance challenges and clarify the legal frameworks that can underpin this work.

Supported by a donation from the Patrick J McGovern Foundation, the Data Trusts Initiative will fund research and engagement activities at the interface of technology, policy and the law. By building a community of researchers and social entrepreneurs, the Initiative will shift discussions about data trusts from principle to practice. 

The Initiative is hosted by the University of Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology and organised in collaboration with the University of Birmingham.

Academic leads:

Prof Neil Lawrence, DeepMind Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Cambridge and Initiative Co-Chair 
Prof Sylvie Delacroix, Professor in Law and Ethics at the University of Birmingham and Initiative Co-Chair 
Dr Jess Montgomery, Director of the Data Trusts Initiative, Department of Computer Science and Technology at Cambridge