Speaking to our members about how their personal data is used

Last month, the data team blogged about how we want to become trusted with our members’ data. We said that one of the pieces of work we’re doing to help us strengthen our position of trust is around understanding how members feel about personal data. We wanted to find out what our members thought about their data being used and shared for various things.

A survey to start

We asked members to take part in a survey. 148 people completed it but not everyone answered every question.

Here are 5 things we’ve learnt so far.

1. 50% want more transparency around how data is used1.2.50%-want-to-know-more

Half of the people who took the survey said they’d like to know more about how personal information is used by organisations and businesses, but they don’t know how to find out. To set the Co-op apart from the rest, we should be clear about how we’re using this information and, if people want even more information, we should make that easy to find.

This leads us to our next learning…

2. Members would like to understand how their data is used

We asked members whether they thought they understood enough about how organisations use their personal information.

Three out of 10 members said they feel they know enough or everything about this. Which leaves 7 out of 10 wanting more information or having no idea about how personal information is used. That’s good to know. It indicates we should be explaining more about what we do, and what we don’t do, with member data.

3. What people do before trusting someone with their data

When it comes to thinking about trusting an organisation with personal details, only 2% of people said that didn’t do anything before hitting the submit button.

We asked: “Which of the following do you routinely do before submitting personal information?” The most popular answer was: “Make sure I amend my marketing preferences.” “Check for secure symbols/assurance marks on the website” was a close second.

Only 3 out of 10 people said that they read the terms and conditions or small print though. We think that we could go further in making our privacy notices easier to understand and more likely to be read and understood.

4. Members are happy to share their data for the right reasons

We asked our members if there were any reasons why they’d be happy for us to safely and anonymously share their data. Unsurprisingly for Co-op members, 70% said they’d be happy if it benefited the local community! Some of the comments around this were “Because the Coop is for local people”, “Local community is important” and “Because it’s for a worthwhile reason”.

One respondent said that although they don’t like the idea of their data being shared, the best reason to do it would be if it helped the local community. That person emphasised that their data must be safe and whoever has the data must be accountable. We completely agree and we’ll continue to prioritise data safety. We will also continue to speak to our Member Council and Members as we go.

5. People trust us

Over three quarters (76%) of our respondents said that they trust us to keep their data safe and to use it sensibly (79%). This is also good news. However we can’t sit back and relax on that one. We know that we must do the right thing, not the easy thing in order to bring our Co-op difference to data. We’ll continue to work in the open.

image shows text that says: People trust us and a graphic of two hands shaking an the Co-op logo

Turning learnings into policy

We’ll look at and analyse the feedback we got from the survey more closely to pick up more themes. But the conversation around whether we use and share member data, and how we do it, isn’t closed now. We’re still listening to your thoughts on this. Over the next few months we will start to discuss improvements to our policies around data and, with a lot more information and discussion start to make those policies real.

Tell us what you think

We’re holding an event Shaping our Co-op: Data trust and transparency event at Federation House on Friday 19 May, 5:15 to 7:30pm. You can register for tickets.

We’d like to speak to members regardless of how much you know about how your data is and can be used, as well as people with an interest in data consent. The only prerequisite is that you have an interest in doing the right thing for members.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering

Being trusted with data

Being ‘trusted with data’ is something we talk about a lot. It is, of course, what we’d like to happen to the Co-op. To help us reach that point, we’ve done some work to define what it means to us and we’ve just begun to look at how we’re going to develop our ideas in 3 areas.

We spoke to lots of groups within the Co-op including our Digital Advisory Board before deciding that we believe being trusted with data is made up of 3 things. These are:

  1. Integrity.
  2. Transparency.
  3. Meaningful consent.

Image shows a triangle with 'Co-op: trusted with data' in the centre and the each of the 3 corners has one of the following words in it: 'integrity', 'transparency' and 'meaningful consent'.

Here’s how we’re developing these 3 areas.

Being transparent with how we’re using data

We want to build the right set of tools and technology to manage and link our data across the Co-op. We’re calling the concept our ‘data layer’, and we’re using ‘layer’ rather than ‘hub’ because we think our approach should be consistent and integrated across the Co-op, as opposed to being centralised. Most importantly, like Mike said at the Co-op AGM 2016, we’re committed to becoming transparent with how we use our data.

To do this we want to understand more about which processes, habits, culture and tools we should adopt to meet our members’ data needs. Our first step to building a data layer is to start a discovery using a multidisciplinary team and user research-lead approach to find out:

  • what we need to do to be trusted with data
  • which expectations can we set or stretch
  • how can we communicate with them on the topic of data
  • how a data layer looks in terms of engineering and data management and what opportunities that offers

We’ve just kicked off this piece of work so we’ll talk more about this later in the year.

Data integrity

Data integrity is about about making sure that data is correct, well-managed and secure. Our Head of Data Governance and Integrity, Ian Thomas will tackle this in 2 ways:

  1. By helping us think about data standards, usage and regulatory requirements as part of everything we do. Ian’s already working directly with our Membership team to simplify how we handle member data. This will make it easier to be transparent around how we hold it. We’re also working closely with Rob Bowley and the engineering team on information security.
  2. By working towards consistent standards and approaches to our data across the Co-op with the wider data governance community. We believe that by co-operating with our colleagues we can share good practice and improve our governance.

Consent to use and share data

The third area we’re looking at is consent for us to use and share data. This is a topic that organisations don’t like talking about if they don’t have a position of transparency. We’re going to start the conversation with our members about data consent because we think that speaking to them will help us do the right things with data and will help us gain their trust.

Initially we’ll use our Member Voice surveys to start asking questions about data consent, and we’ll be speaking about it at our AGM. We’re also holding an event called Shaping our Co-op: Data Trust and Transparency Event to get feedback from our members on trust and consent. In combination with the data layer research we aim to get a comprehensive view of what we need to build in order to be truly trusted with data.

We’ve just begun these important pieces of work and we’ll keep talking about them.

Rob McKendrick
Head of Data Engineering

Championing a better way of doing data

Blue background with white text that says 'championing a better way of doing data.'

We want to bring the Co-op difference to data. That means going beyond what is simply required by law, and instead infusing the way we collect and handle data with the Co-op’s values.

Practically, we want the Co-op’s data to be: correct and up to date; secure; available to those who need it within the Group and easy to find, understand, connect and augment. That will help us make decisions based on data. We’ll arrive at better decisions more quickly because the information we need will be easy to find and use. It will also help us spot new opportunities across the business, quickly, creating new opportunities because we are joining the dots. We’ll also be able to build better relationships with our partners because data that is well-maintained and with consistent standards can act as common language between us and them.

So, how do we get there? Well, we all have a role. We’ll need to set common standards and provide tools and ways of working needed: data principles.

As importantly, we need to create a culture at the Co-op that isn’t complacent about data and problems with data, but instead fixes those issues at source. We should think and care about how data is used once it is created. Everybody has a role to play in data. Thinking about data and asking how to use it and why will become a habit.

Some of this isn’t new and many people at the Co-op have been doing good work for a long time. Helping and supporting those people to continue to do their jobs is important. That’s why we’ve been convening and meeting with Data Leaders, and why we’re including colleagues from data teams across the business to work out what values we want to hold our data to from now on.

Data and the Co-op values

To help us think about this, we’ve started to look at how Co-operative values like self-help, self-responsibility, solidarity and equity might manifest in data.

We’ve come up with a Data Principles alpha to help colleagues working with data at the Co-op. The principles are based on workshops we’ve had with colleagues, and we’re going to be running more user research sessions to make sure that they are relevant and helpful for colleagues at every level. We’ve done a few versions of data principles, and based on colleague feedback on previous iterations we’re sharing what we’ve learnt publicly.

Important themes

1. Data is part of everything

The data function does not work in isolation. Everyone does their bit to collect and create  good data, which can be used as the basis for making decisions. We are focused on what Co-op members and customers want and need, and respond to that quickly. Colleagues have the necessary tools to do so, and are trained in how to use data and to spot opportunities.

2. Clarity is for everyone

We will communicate how we use and collect data in a way that both specialists and non-specialists can understand. We’ll use consistent terms and standards that are externally recognisable, as well as use plain English to help members meaningfully consent to how the Co-op uses their data.

3. One version of the truth

Major data sets will have a designated owner and steward, who is in charge of keeping them updated, accurate and complete according to defined goals. All significant data sets will be listed and visible to all staff in a Central Data Catalogue, rather than relying on local duplicate, or inconsistent versions.

4. Co-operating safely

We will use data across the business where appropriate and ethical. We encourage co-operating about data, safely and securely, working together for mutual benefit.

We’re still testing these and we’re keen to hear colleague, customer and member thoughts on them. If you have feedback on these principles, leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Catherine Brien
Data Science Director

Local causes and location

Charlotte King recently talked about the changes that we’ve made to make it easier for our members to select a local cause to support with their 1%. I’ve been looking at those local causes, what type they are and where they are in the United Kingdom.

Image showing the spread of local causes being helped by Co-op Members

This image is a scatter plot of those local causes that our Co-op Members are supporting when they buy products and services from us. 

This shows the relationship between the people who live in the UK and the Co-op. The Co-op is supporting local causes right across the nation so where there’s a community, there’s likely to be a good cause that our members are supporting.

What do the colours represent?

When a local cause applies to receive support, they’re asked to classify themselves into a category like ‘Health’ or ‘Environment’ and the colours above are distinct for each category.

I’d love to give you an interactive map where you can explore the data for yourselves but I can’t do that today so instead, I’ve done some exploring for you. 

This scatter plot below just has the categories Health (yellow) and Community Development (purple).

Image showing the spread of local causes being helped by Co-op Members

Both types are widely spread but something I noticed was that there seems to be a split between the urban centres of Greater London and Northern England. London appears to be more densely covered by Health causes whereas places like Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Leeds, Tyneside are more balanced with Community Development causes.

Here’s another plot, this time with Social Inclusion (black) and Young People (blue).

Image showing the spread of local causes being helped by Co-op Members

Social Inclusion causes seem relatively concentrated in certain areas of the country. These tend to be the main cities. Causes within the category of Young People are both numerous and well spread, there seems to be a nation wide concern for causes that will help the next generation. 

Don’t forget we’re looking for the next round of good causes to support in May 2017, the closing date for applications is 16th December.

Alex Waters
Data Science.

Data Leaders

At our AGM we committed to making the Co-op trusted with data. We’ve set up Data Leaders to be the authority in keeping the data we hold on our members secure. They met for the first time last week.

What do Data Leaders do?

We’ll come together as a group to set the standards and principles for how we operate and treat data. Any decisions that we make will be communicated clearly and acted upon by all areas of Co-op. The group will investigate and discover any issues, share and resolve them quickly. We’ll make sure that we’re visible, making sure we lead the way forward for data protection and handling.

Who are the Data Leaders?

We’ve asked people from Digital to our Legal business, Human Resources to Food and every department in between. We’ve a broad range of experience and expertise in the group, and everyone is encouraged to bring any issues they have to our fortnightly meetings.

How can I find out what’s being discussed?

We’ll discuss and make decisions at meetings; minutes and any decisions will be published openly.

Picture of Catherine Brien Data Science Director at the Co-op
Catherine Brien, Data Science Director

Catherine Brien
Data Science Director

Our response to the Digital Economy Bill

Last week I gave oral evidence to the Digital Economy Bill Scrutiny committee in the House of Commons. It was a joint session with Jeni Tennison CEO of the Open Data Institute (ODI) and a member of our Digital Advisory Board.

You can watch the full session on Parliament Live or read Hansard.

We support the sentiment behind the Bill, there’s much to applaud in it. But it’s really important that Government embodies the principles of open access to public data, with strong and transparent operational processes in place. This is a commercial issue because of the extra friction of duplicate and inconsistent public data. For us it’s also a member data issue, in terms of access, privacy and trust.

We need registers to do this. Sharing of data between different areas within Government has the potential to worsen the current situation.

I talked about radical transparency at our AGM. We should all be able to see where and how Government shares data.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of this Bill in the weeks and months ahead.

Mike Bracken

Chief Digital Officer

Hello to Alex Waters

I’m Alex and I recently joined the Data Science team.

Picture of Alex Waters

I first joined the Co-op on its Graduate Programme three years ago and have focused on data pretty much from the start. I’ve worked across different areas of the Co-op and each area taught me lots about data collecting, structuring, analysing, presenting and really importantly – using data for user focused decision making.

I want to make it much easier for colleagues to understand what data is telling them, helping them focus on the things that can make a real difference. At the moment I’m working with the team at Co-op Electrical to do exactly this.

I’m excited to be part of the team working to make the Co-op trusted with data.

Look out for more updates from myself and all the data science team shortly.

Alex Waters
Data product consultant