The University of Sheffield
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Living With Data: Data uses visualisations

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Six public sector data uses

On the Living With Data, we produced accounts and visualisations of six data uses. We asked survey respondents questions about data uses based on written accounts. We used the visualisations as elicitation tools in focus groups and interviews, accompanying them with verbal descriptions and discussions. 

BBC and DWP data uses were selected by our contacts within these partner organisations. At the BBC, our focus was on two experiments with personal control over data: 

  • BBC Box, a prototype which pulls together data about what users watch or listen to and gives them control over who has access to this data; 
  • BBC Own It, a free app designed by the BBC to support, help and advise children when they use their phones to chat and explore the online world, without adult supervision.

DWP data uses both focused on ways of verifying identity online: 

  • Confirm Your Identity, an identity verification process for Universal Credit payments which makes it possible to confirm identity online; 
  • Dynamic Trust Hub, which explored a range of issues to enhance identity verification, including technology integration and possible security checks. 

In the health domain, we produced accounts of: 

  • The NHS Covid data store, a national data store to help organisations responsible for coordinating the Covid-19 response. We drew on information in the public domain, on government web pages and elsewhere to produce this account. 
  • Data uses in anNHS antibiotic prescribing research project. We drew on prior by Itzelle Medina-Perea to produce this account. 

Organising data uses into themes

In our interviews and focus groups, we grouped data uses into four themes. The themes, our descriptions of them and the data uses included in the theme were:

  • Data Matching: this is where organisations match data from different datasets or databases, or compare data from one dataset with data from another. The Data Matching theme included the NHS antibiotic prescribing project and Confirm Your Identity. 
  • Data Ownership and Control: who owns and controls data about you. The Data Ownership and Control theme included both BBC data uses, BBC Box and BBC Own It, and the NHS Covid-19 Data Store.
  • Data Sharing and Re-use: By this, we mean instances where data collected by one organisation is then shared with another organisation. The Data Sharing and Re-use theme included the two NHS data uses, the NHS antibiotic prescribing project and the NHS Covid-19 Data Store, and BBC Own It.     
  • Algoritmic Processing: By algorithmic processing, we are referring to analytic processes where machines, not humans, make decisions, predictions or recommendations, for example about our behaviour or the kinds of content we see. The Algorithmic Processing theme included the two BBC data uses, BBC Box and BBC Own It, and DWP Dynamic Trust Hub.


The Nuffield Foundation: Grant number OSP/43959



  • There is no personal data or any that requires ethical approval


  • The data complies with the institution and funders' policies on access and sharing

Sharing and access restrictions

  • The data can be shared openly

Data description

  • The file formats are open or commonly used

Methodology, headings and units

  • Headings and units are explained in the files