personal data valuation

Personal Data Valuation – A Challenging Task

One route of reaching citizens on a grand scale lies in getting smart cities to more speedily adopt and utilise personal data platforms. These platforms will subsequently be enhanced by the citizens’ rich personal data. And although obstacles, such as legal and governance issues, technology availability and standards are pretty-much known and solutions are already there, personal data valuation is a challenge for projects as DataVaults and our sister project KRAKEN.

Extensive research is ongoing on the valuation of data (see for example the Value of Data Inventory by  Open Data Watch), however each author on the topic is grappling in their own way with the implications of data as a new economic asset, and yet there appears to be little consensus on how best to measure its value.Attempts to put a price tag on data have failed thus far, since analogies with either tangible (oil) or intangible assets (patents, intellectual property) break at the point where the mapping between features and assigned value becomes less clear. And perhaps this is normal since rules that apply to old commodities possibly don’t even apply to this new kind of resource.

Collaboration for the Win

The collaboration with the Safe-DEED project, has been of immense help in planning how to tackle this issue. A report covering their Data Valuation methodology starts from a tentative definition of data value around several key areas: contexts, data quality, privacy, aggregation and reporting. It also discusses the properties that make data difficult to assess and brings valuable examples from data valuation applied to personal data, focusing on the central notion of data quality. The report concludes with a discussion on the challenges of aggregating these aspects under a composite measure, and how reporting through certification or impact-based narratives can be a feasible alternative.

Data Narratives towards Valuing Data

In relation to reporting the value of data, and with respect to the efficacy of impact-based approaches to data valuation, the success of these approaches consists in the fact that they are able to tell compelling stories based on data and connect them to clear outcomes and contexts.

This is also echoed by the Data Narratives approach, which acknowledges that “the value of big data is not data, but the narrative that it generates and supports.” There is an emerging roadmap towards a European Data Economy enriched with an abundance of personal data. And with new sources of funding for investment being potentially available, how can we overcome the knowledge gap existing between the cities and their understanding of the results from the projects such as DataVaults which are becoming available for their use? Regarding the deployment of urban data platforms for example, a problem faced is that “the cities do not recognise that they need one”.


With the aid of the “Citizen Control of Personal Data” initiative, within the EU’s Smart Cities Marketplace we in DataVaults are starting to look at how best to tell the story of data within a city, which can help clarify some of the questions which have arisen in how best to evaluate some of the higher level goals of our project. Being able to valuate the additional personal data streams to be circulated through the DataVaults framework will be of great benefit to the evaluation process of the overall DataVaults demonstration activities and will also make the case for investing in personal data.

Photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash