Many claims are made about the public benefits which can be gained from sharing personal data between public service providers. However, the term ‘public benefit’ is rarely, if ever, clearly defined. In a context of significant public concern about how data is used - not least in the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica revelations, this presents public service providers with challenges in deciding when they should share data and for what purposes.

In a new report, Data for Public Benefit, launched today by Involve, Understanding Patient Data and the Carnegie UK Trust, the tensions between reaping benefits from data sharing and the risks of sharing data are unpacked and explained. A short animation has also been published to accompany the report.

The report is based on the findings from a series of six workshops in different local authority areas across England. The workshops brought together over 120 professionals from the public and voluntary sectors (working in the fields of housing, criminal justice, health, social care and welfare) to explore how they understand, define and value the public benefits which could be derived from the use of personal data.

Three clear tests emerged from our research for public service providers to gain the social licence to share and use data more widely. These are that data sharing should be purposeful, proportionate and responsible.

The report presents a new framework setting out questions for public service providers to use to assess whether these tests have been met.

The framework aims to provoke discussions among public service providers and provides a platform for engaging the public in an informed and meaningful dialogue on the risks and public benefit of data sharing.