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Data Mobility: The Good, The Bad and the Opportunity

At the Consumers International Summit, we explored how new data portability rights are being put into practice for consumers. The session led by Ctrl-Shift’s Liz Brandt shared the results of a brand new UK data mobility sandbox which is testing out how consumers can safely share data for positive outcomes.

In this blog Liz explores the good, the bad and the opportunity of data mobility. 

Data mobility: the opportunity

Data Mobility is a revolutionary market model that enables individuals to be active, empowered participants in their future digital lives in a sustainable digital economy that they can trust.

Enabling data to flow between entities in a trusted and lawful manner, that protects and respects the data protection rights of individuals, is widely recognised as critical to the growth of digital economies and the unlocking of significant public and social value. Importantly the Data Portability right in the GDPR enshrines this in law for EU citizens creating the opportunity for increased trust, transparency and control for individuals. In other jurisdictions, rights to data portability are either in place or in development.

A 2018 economic study from Ctrl-Shift and the UK Digital ministry investigating the growth opportunities from data portability points to significant productivity and efficiency opportunities and even greater opportunities for innovation, creating never before seen services for consumers that help them manage their lives better and make better, more informed decisions. In turn this offers opportunities for sustainable business growth for organisations and efficient and productive societies.

However, without an enabling infrastructure, data portability opens up new risks for consumers, organisations and governments alike. Only working together can these stakeholders create a market that will enable us to grasp these benefits.

A DATA MOBILITY SANDBOX: working together to make data mobility a reality

We started the task of working together by bringing together business, governments, consumer groups and consumers in the initial phase of the Ctrl-Shift Data Mobility Sandbox. This phase is about to complete and is designed to test the current capabilities of the market to make the right to data portability both safe and easy so that data is able to flow to where it creates maximum value as and when required. We call these capabilities Data Mobility by which we mean data sharing is permissioned and persistent (constantly on and updated) and under the control of the individual and therefore able to support the development of innovative new services that deliver benefits to individuals and create sustainable market value.

The initial Sandbox is working with a group of crosssector organisations; Barclays, the BBC, British Gas, BT, digi.me and Facebook and is taking precise but significant steps. It aims to identify the infrastructure needed to make safe and secure data portability easier and more controllable by the individual within a single country.

This includes undertaking research with real people and their real data to understand their experience of sharing their data, how safe they perceive it to be. To complement these safety assessments, we are working with data innovators to begin to identify the value that can be created from consented access to trusted data, integrated around individuals. These might be utility switching services, or things to help you manage your household finances or an automatic insurance service that knows when you are about to take a trip and insures the portable, digital devices you usually take with you for the duration.


There are a number of potential benefits from Data Mobility which the Sandbox aims to test.

  • for individuals, reducing the risks of financial or other harms that misuse of their data might bring when they port it from one organisation to another
  • reducing the reputational risks for organisations, typically for harms that an individual may suffer, when sharing data with other organisations
  • Working with Data Innovators we will gain a view of the value that can be created for individuals, organisations and society.

One output will be the development of a set of test criteria against which we will test these benefits. These will create a foundation for a set of development criteria for the market and importantly will aid in identifying infrastructural gaps which will need to be filled if the market is to be successful.


Alongside the participating businesses, the Data Mobility Sandbox has a number of essential Observers; Consumers International; Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport (responsible for UK legislation); the Information Commissioners Office (the UK Data Protection Authority); the Centre of Data Ethics and Innovation (recently launched UK government body) and Southampton University Web Science Institute. Each organisation helps the sandbox follow good practices and contributes insight into the future market governance requirements.


The initial findings from this phase of the Sandbox will be published in May 2019. Subsequent phases will respond to these findings, identifying a set of additive tests and investigations into the infrastructural requirements and international aspects of data mobility. The next phase will also see the development of value focused sandboxes, these will focus on the new value that can be created for individuals, organisations and society. We’re interested in multiple opportunities so please feel free to contact us if you have ideas. We are currently exploring opportunities in health and wellbeing, media, travel and transport, home, finance and education.

Data Mobility offers an amazing opportunity for individuals to safely use their data to create new value in their lives, make better decisions and manage complex life events more effectively - to be active and empowered participants in our future digital economy and society. This is not going to happen overnight but we are taking the important first steps on a journey that will be valuable for us all.