Data sharing has been given a somewhat bad name over the past few years, partly due to the increased awareness around data subject rights since the advent of the GDPR, partly due to a fear around the consequences of public/private sector collaborations and partly due to some dubious practices in certain industries.

However, in the right circumstances, data sharing can create invaluable opportunities for both data subjects and organisations, and can be a force for positive and efficient development in many different industries.

The key for data controllers is to carry out a safeguards analysis before any sharing takes place, to make sure the sharing is fair, safe and transparent. The ICO's Data Sharing Code of Practice, published in December, recognises the benefits that can result from data sharing and is an invaluable guide on this topic. It is short and clear; once the key concepts are understood and smooth-running processes are in place, organisations can benefit hugely from the economic and innovation advantages that fast access to new data can bring in this increasingly data-driven world.

The Code is recommended reading, particularly as, if an issue arises in relation to your data sharing, the Commissioner must take the Code into account when considering whether you have broken data protection laws. Some key take-aways include:

  • make sure you have a legal basis for sharing the data
  • put a data sharing agreement in place
  • consider the impact on, and reasonable expectations of, the data subjects
  • tell individuals clearly and openly in advance about your plans to share the data
  • make it as straightforward as possible for data subjects to exercise their rights

Data sharing is central to digital innovation in both the private and public sectors. It can lead to many economic and social benefits, including greater growth, technological innovations, and the delivery of more efficient and targeted services.