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Heleen Janssen 1

Heleen Janssen

Urban Citizen Fellowship

Project title

Enabling the sharing of company data for local community and citizen benefit: exploring the opportunities and pitfalls with the “data intermediary” concept

Research question

* What would a "data intermediary" (an entity mediating between companies wishing to share data and local government wanting to use that data) need to appropriately govern these data exchanges?
* How can the rights and interests of citizens and companies be safeguarded in B2Gdata sharing arrangements?
* What legal, organisational and technical data governance mechanisms would be necessary?

Project description

Big Tech corporations and other companies collect and analyse large amounts of data about people’s behaviours in public spaces. This has enabled several companies to benefit from financial, economic and political perspectives. The same data might potentially also help municipalities with the development of better informed policy-making, or with the allocation of scarce public goods and services (to tackle physical safety issues, mobility and congestion problems, or to accomplish a more equitable distribution of goods across citizens who need it most).

Yet, companies holding data may have strong legal, technical, political or economic incentives to resist sharing data under their control. These refusals might lead to information and knowledge gaps on the municipality’s side, potentially affecting the effectiveness, accuracy and timeliness of the municipality’s policymaking and public task fulfilment, and as a consequence of this, affect the livability of the city and the lives of citizens – while information indicating where and with whom these issues occur may already exist. 

At the moment, B2G-data sharing is not compulsory for companies – unless the law determines otherwise. It is, at this moment, not sure whether forthcoming EU-law – the draft EU data Act – will reconfirm this. 

This research aims to address fundamental questions to B2G data sharing and explores the concept of the “data intermediary” – an entity that would manage and control the data governance aspects in B2G data sharing. The intermediary’s primary task would be to gain confidence in the data sharing of the relevant stakeholders involved in that data sharing: the companies, the municipality, and the citizens. Its data governance would make B2G data sharing with the municipality compliant, trustworthy, transparent and sustainable – all in the interest of the municipality’s better-informed policy-making, and with this, the interests of the citizens.

Against this backdrop, the research project explores to what extent a “data intermediary” could help achieve compliant, trustworthy and transparent B2G data sharing, and what a data intermediary would need to operationalise its data governance aims. This research aims to unpack and evaluate the underlying tensions in B2G data sharing contexts and examines whether a data intermediary can encourage businesses’ involvement, with the ultimate aim of fostering and protecting rights and interests of citizens.

Selected publications

  • H. Janssen & J. Singh, ‘Data Intermediary’ (2022) Internet Policy Review 11(1).
  • H. Janssen e.a., Gemeentelijke grip op private sensorgegevens. Juridisch kader voor het gemeentelijk handelingsperspectief bij de verwerking van private sensorgegevens in de openbare ruimte. Research commissioned by the municipality of Amsterdam (2022, forthcoming).
  • B. Bodo & H. Janssen, Maintaining trust in a technologized public sector’ (2022) Policy & Society 41(3).
  • A. Giannopoulou, J. Ausloos, S. Delacroix, H. Janssen ‘Intermediating data rights exercises: the role of legal mandates’ (2022) International Data Privacy Law pp. 1 – 16.
  • H. Janssen, J. Cobbe, J. Singh, ‘Personal Information Management Systems: A user-centric privacy utopia?’ (2020) Internet Policy Review 9(4).
  • J. Cobbe, M. Seng Ah Lee, H. Janssen, J. Singh, Centering the law in the digital state’ (2020) Computer (October 2020).
  • H. Janssen, ‘Detecting new approaches for a fundamental rights impact assessment to automated decision-making’, (2020) International Data Privacy Law 10(4).
  • H. Janssen, M. Seng Ah Lee, J. Singh, ‘Practical Fundamental Rights Impact Assessments’ (2022) International Journal of Law and Information Technology.