Through participating in our contemporary digitally-mediated society individuals are often surveilled
where data is generated about them that is analyzed and aggregated to create computational models of
their everyday habits, desires, anxieties, and wellbeing . Once
data about an individual has
been generated, they have little meaningful control over how it is used [6,7]. there is a critical need for more
diverse approaches to conceptualize the roles,
agencies, and potentialities that should be afforded to people within the data economy.
Little is known about how data intermediaries could or should be designed and the new forms of
data-driven services that they could give rise to.
◉ Research Question 1
In what ways can data intermediaries increase personal agency for individuals and social groups in
◉ Research Question 2
What services might be enabled through data intermediaries, and how could they encourage participation
in a more human-centric data economy?
◉ Research Question 3
What potential benefits, tensions, and consequences exist in this emerging design space?
What are Data Intermediaries?
Data intermediaries (DIs) mediate data exchanges between an individual, a source of data, and a data
user to ensure equitable, more transparent uses of personal data . They offer individuals more
control over what data is collected and how it is used; would afford the agency to stop the flow of
data and even to request the deletion of previously shared data; and, importantly, open up
opportunities to re-use the data about them in new ways .
↑ A data intermediary mediating the data flow between a data source, a
wearable fitness tracker, a data user, and a fitness tracking application.
Our Definition of Data Intermediaries
As interaction designers and HCI researchers, we approach data intermediaries
the perspective of
the end user. We interpret and define data intermediaries as:
A digital service that mediates the flow of personal data between an individual, and service
entity that uses personal data.
The data intermediary holds a duty of care over the user’s data and is beholden to their
for fair use.
For the benefit of both individuals and data users, data is verified and authenticated.
An individual has the ability to choose between one or more data intermediaries, that have
different specializations and foci.
Design Research Process
Our approach unfolded over two years, as the research team engaged with:
An ongoing review of literature on data intermediaries and a human-centric data economy.
An exploration of the related areas of privacy, data policy, data activism, and surveillance
A hands-on exploration of current data intermediary services.
And the development of design fiction proposals that shaped a design space for data
intermediaries in a human-centric data economy.
Proposal 1: Data Enricher
This proposal presents ways that individuals can enrich their personal data to manifest what they
perceive as a more authentic representation of their current interests and future desires.
What would it mean for individuals to directly participate in replacing inferred data about
themselves with their own truths?
This proposal addresses the tension between the commercial interests of tech corporations (i.e.,
YouTube, TickTock, or Instagram) vying for an individual’s attention with hyper-personalized
recommendation algorithms and an individual’s agency to take ownership over what they are exposed
Proposal 5: University Admission
This proposal responds to the current practice of universities surveilling and purchasing data about
potential students during the application and recruitment process , to speculate on how data
intermediaries might provide more agency to individuals in these vulnerable positions.
Proposal 7: University Admission
Moving beyond how data intermediaries may bring value to an individual, our process led us to explore
how personal data might be shared to bring value to a community. Data altruism has been
characterized as the consent regarding an individual for the use of their personal data to benefit
communities and society . This proposal moves beyond this to
formalize an example of how data
intermediaries could support data altruism, by showing how individuals might donate data to a local
In the current data economy, the same data that is described in this proposal is extracted from
individuals surreptitiously, without their consent, or in exchange for the use of a service.
In a possible near future, would it not be preferable to agentically share this data with a
↓ Check out the full Publication
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