Health data for common good: Defining the boundaries and social dilemmas of data commons

Nadezhda Purtova

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientific


The promises of Big Data Analytics in the area of health are grand and tempting. Access to the large pools of data, much of which is personal, is said to be vital if the Big Data health initiatives are to succeed. The resulting rhetoric is of data sharing. This contribution exposes ‘the other side’ of data sharing which often remains in the dark when the Information Industry and researchers advocate for more relaxed rules of data access: namely, the paper frames the issue of personal data use in terms of the commons, a resource shared by a group of appropriators and therefore subject to social dilemmas. The paper argues that the uncontrolled use of the data commons will ultimately result in a number of the commons problems, and elaborates on the two problems in particular: disempowerment of the individual vis-à-vis the Information Industry, and the enclosure of data by a few Information Industry actors. These key message is: if one chooses to approach data as commons and advocates data use for common good, one should also accept the commons problems that come with such sharing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnder observation:
Subtitle of host publicationThe interplay between eHealth and surveillance
EditorsSamantha Adams, Nadezhda Purtova, Ronald Leenes
PublisherSpringer International
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)3319483404
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


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