United Arab Emirates: Informed Consent: How Government Can Unlock Value From Data

Last Updated: 3 August 2017
Article by Cristian Carstoiu and Farhan Syed

Many governments are looking to gain a more complete picture of their citizens as they try to better respond to the public's changing needs. The public sector faces a number of challenges in persuading citizens to share more personal data, and a recent series of Twitter polls conducted by KPMG's Global Government and Public Sector network suggest that trust among citizens around data sharing remains low.1

To succeed in winning over a skeptical public, focus should shift towards transparency, an essential foundation for building trust, and articulating the benefit of using data to add value to people's lives.

Private sector articulates value better

Citizens now voluntarily share more information with the private sector than government. Think of everything we share on social media, and with online shopping platforms. But why? Because the private sector is better at articulating its value proposition, and once it gets your data, it retains, arranges and shares it efficiently within their organizations to personalize its product or service offerings. If done well, customer loyalty and revenues surge. One example is Amazon's personalized recommendations engine which now makes up 35% of its total product sales.2

Government, on the other hand, has struggled to shake the image of monopolistic provider, offering citizens limited control over the personal information it holds, and providing fewer personalized services in return. Often, with different branches of government asking for the same details time and time again.

A general distrust affects confidence in data handling

Citizens in several jurisdictions have expressed a growing distrust3 of government and politics in general. This doesn't bode well for governments looking to persuade their citizens to part with more personal information.

This is especially true in individualistic societies, such as the UK and the US, where the public continues to express a desire for greater "control" in their interactions with government.

A growing number of governments are experimenting with the concept of "control" by putting privacy and information sharing into the hands of the people in the form of user consent. The emergence of mobile apps offers the opportunity to test consent-based models that allow governments to work with citizens to share their information with third party providers, trusted parties and loved ones – both Howz4 and Evergreen Life5 are good examples of apps that help advance the power of consent in real time when it comes to sharing personal information, such as health records.

Data risk to data value

In the UK, government has tended to focus on the security and protection of data sets, rather than on communicating proactively about the potential of greater information sharing. For good reason, security and protection are critical pre-requisites, as realized in the Child Benefits recipient's loss in 2007.6 As well, the lack of popular support and privacy concerns have historically undermined high profile programs, like National Identity Cards7 in 2011 and more recently Care.Data.8 Both contributed to public nervousness about the use of personal data but highlighted the need for government to communicate their intentions clearly to citizens with regards to data, in addition to the potential benefits.

In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)9 is redrawing the boundaries of government responsibilities and relationships relating to citizen privacy and control, increasingly focusing on the transparency, auditability, and granular consent from citizens themselves for sharing data. Despite Brexit, the UK also intends to implement the GDPR in May 2018.

The UK National Data Guardian (NDG) is another good example of a government organization focused on creating a more informed public on the use of their data and the benefits of sharing. Understandability, granularity, and timeliness of consent are key themes throughout a recentreport.10

Actions government can take to ease data sharing

1. Adopt greater transparency and communication.

Governments have seldom seen the need to publicize the results of their dealings with citizens' data. Traditional consultations and methods of communicating with the public about data are not dynamic and inclusive enough. More and more it is about using newer channels, in addition to traditional ones, to reach the broadest set of stakeholders as rapidly as possible. 

2. Communicate best-practice and success stories.

Even when data is used creatively and appropriately, the benefits are not always there for people to see. Publicizing the success and long-term benefits of data best-practices would help make a more robust case to the public for sharing more personal information. The largely untapped body of best-practice cases could be used to showcase the long-term benefits data sharing, while building a stronger case for more permissive public attitudes.

3. Link existing data to provide a clear, higher-value service offering.

Governments, for the most part, remain siloed and one of the greatest challenges in the public sector's handling of data remains the lack of data linking.  Linked data is in its early days in the UK, but the opportunities to measurably improve the personalization and efficiency of services is clear.

We also need to be thinking about the impact of consent and opt-out based models now or we may not be able to achieve the value we need from more joined up and inclusive information sharing.

4. Lead a public debate on data sharing and the ethics of data use.

I would love to see governments lead an inclusive debate on the ethics of data use. As organizations get better at combining and analyzing data sets, with more powerful tools and techniques, we must establish common principles of ethical and responsible data use. This could result in a number of positive outputs, including inputting into national legislative and regulatory baselines on the handling of sensitive data, and establishing views of data sharing across new trade boundaries.

What does success look like?

In the end, to gain greater license to use more information about its citizens, government can become more actively transparent in its dealings with personal data, and make proactive strides towards communicating its value more clearly in ways its citizen's will understand. Balancing consent and trust with efficiency of service delivery certainly remains a huge challenge.  

Success would mean a majority of the public who not only consent to sharing more of their personal information, but understand the value in doing so, and are motivated to update their information on a voluntary basis. With this support, governments can embrace more ambitious data initiatives leading to better, and more citizen-centered services without the fear of disruption or the loss of good-will.


1 KPMG's Global Government & Public Sector network conducted a series of seven polls on Twitter relating to public trust and government use of data between October 2016 and February 2017. The polls received a cumulative 107,924 votes.
2 The Power of Personalized Product Recommendations. (2017, March 09). Retrieved March 13, 2017.
3 Trust in Government. (n.d.). Retrieved March and April, 2017.
4 howz
5 evergreenlife
6 UK's families put on fraud alert. (2007, November 20). Retrieved March 13, 2017.
7 Identity cards and new Identity and Passport Service suppliers. (2013, March 26). Retrieved May 13, 2017.
8 Boseley, S. (2016, July 06). NHS to scrap single database of patients' medical details. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
9 (Regulation (EU) 2016/679
10 Review of data security, consent and opt-outs

2 May 2017

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions