Simplifying and demystifying personal data

Simplifying and demystifying personal data

As with much in the debate about data and tech, losing the jargon, demystifying the regulations and ultimately keeping things simple when it comes to personal data and people’s rights, is always going to be a challenge

But that was the clear call from a workshop that Corsham Institute hosted, (20 June 2018), focussed on our community engagement and life-long learning project, Your Data, Your Rights.

Local people from across the Corsham area came together to discuss the challenges, knowledge gap, the pros and cons of data sharing, and where the balance should be between raising awareness of the threats and promoting the opportunities.

At Corsham Institute, we are following the 5D project design model of Discover, Define, Design, Deliver and Disseminate, with our initial Discovery phase for this project being a wide ranging online survey with local residents, which was carried out in April 2018. Overall the survey showed that while most people lack essential knowledge about their personal data and how organisations collect and use it, they also care a lot about it, are interested in their data rights, and want more information.

YDYR Group working[1].JPG

With our community-focussed ‘Test and Learn’ approach we are actively engaging with groups of people who responded to the survey in the current Define stage of the project, to go deeper into the challenges, and begin to shape some specific outcomes to take further.

One of the strong emerging themes is that while digital challenges may be new and complex, the answers may well be much older and more traditional. Not relying on technical solutions or new apps, but relying on people and communities to respond by stepping forward to find ways to stay safe online.

YDYR workshop group.JPG

Our workshop participants initiated discussions on a wide variety of related topics, including the adoption of a public health approach to data and data rights, to the development of a community ‘digital spirit’ with an e-version of Neighbourhood Watch schemes, where people would look out for the safety of their neighbours.

Such an approach would require a basic ‘data-pack’ on online safety and rights, to inform the community across its demographics, knowledge levels and the skills-base, with consistent content and simple messaging to cut through the complexities. It could then be used by existing community networks, trusted intermediaries, and cascaded through teams of local digital champions to residents.

The possibility of co-designing such a solution is an exciting one, where, after some initial priming of the pump with the tools it needs, a community could take the lead and support itself to become a safer, connected and more cohesive place, where knowledge spreads, the skills needed across people’s lives grow, and the benefits of our digital world are increasingly realised in local ways by local people.

This vision is one Corsham Institute, working with members of our local community, will develop and test further to find models that can be scaled and replicated in other areas. When fully developed, this community-led approach could become an important contribution to research in the life-long learning arena, into the skills we all need for the digital age.

Corsham Institute specialises in research and learning

Corsham Institute specialises in research and learning

Corsham Institute was established to understand the challenges and opportunities provided by our digital world and connected society.

Our vision is to enable a thriving UK society where people have the confidence and ability to adapt and learn in a changing world. The mission of the Institute is to promote lifelong learning to help people to be resilient, confident and versatile. We want to empower people to think critically and creatively, solve problems, and to know who and what to trust. The Institute is committed to driving innovation and developing initiatives that scale and have a measurable and significant impact. 

In response to demand, the Institute will now specialise and focus its activities on research and learning.

As the breadth of our work is changing, Rachel Neaman, CEO, and Maeve Walsh, Director of Policy and Advocacy, will be leaving the organisation. We wish Rachel and Maeve every success in their future careers and thank them for their contribution over the last 12 months. 

Louisa Simons, COO will now lead the organisation and the delivery of our programmes. More news will follow as our work continues.

Social media and screen time – what’s the real story?

Social media and screen time – what’s the real story?

With recent headlines claiming social media safeguards to be “inadequate” and conflicting views on what constitutes “healthy screen time” for young people, how do we separate fact from fiction in this increasingly politicised debate? 

Recent evidence from the Children’s Commissioner and our Safer Internet Day findings show a rise in the number of children with social media profiles below the “restricted” age of 13 and over, exposing them to content and interactions inappropriate for their age. Social media companies must take more responsibility to ensure their users are protected and safe and that age verification systems are doing their job. But this isn’t the whole story, nor is it the complete solution in the long term. 

Ci responded to the Science and Technology Committee’s recent inquiry into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s mental health. We recommended that: 

  • Social media companies take greater efforts to verify the age of their users and gain appropriate consent for new and current users. 
  • Social media companies consistently record and report on the nature, volume and outcomes of complaints and reports made within their systems by children and young people. (1)
  • Industry-level initiatives be independently evaluated to understand how long-term reduction in harm and improvement in wellbeing can be achieved. Learning should be shared and applied to promote consensus amongst company policies and initiatives. (2)

It is imperative that Government helps social media companies collaborate and report issues, so there is a better understanding of how to prevent and tackle negative online experiences. We are therefore pleased to support the calls for an independent Internet Commission to take this forward.

However, we believe it is equally important that Government builds up a solid evidence base in this area before next steps are taken. The complexity and pace of technological change and the context of children’s digital lives requires rigorous, nuanced research before we can draw informed conclusions to inform new policies or legislation. So we also asked for more longitudinal research that takes the granularity of children’s lives into full consideration in our response. The content that children and young people access and the context will ultimately determine what has a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Until this is known, the combative dialogue between Government and big tech firms will continue, whilst children’s, parents’, carers’ and educators’ voices are lost. Limits to screen time will not fix this. 

Research shows that young girls are increasingly reporting higher levels of negative impact than boys - this must be interrogated more closely. We recommended that new research focuses on gender as a control factor, so we can get to the root of this problem. It is vital that we understand how the content is tailored differently towards boys and girls and what this means for children’s mental health and wellbeing in the long-term. Much of this could be attributed to societal expectations on girls and women, as opposed to the social media platforms themselves. They are often a conduit for issues that already exist. Parents and carers must be supported to have open conversations with children on self-esteem and confidence to build their resilience and prevent issues from spiralling online. 

We also advocated for programmes that help educators, parents and carers work with children to develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. As our world changes at an increasingly fast pace, it is essential that children develop empathy, resilience and creativity in their approach to life; what we term “life skills”. Children and young people will continue to rely on digital technology to build and maintain social relationships, develop professional profiles and participate in our globalised, connected world. We risk excluding children from the benefits that come with increased access to digital technology if we only focus on the negatives. 

We believe Government must look closely at our current education system and determine whether this is fit for purpose. With the never-ending pressure placed on children through rote learning and knowledge-based examinations, they will continue to be ill-prepared for our fast-paced and changeable world. 

We need updated curricula and guidance for educators so they can support children for the changing future of work, with healthy attitudes towards technology and an open, lifelong learning mindset. Children and young people need strong digital media literacy to better prepare them for our fast-paced online world. They will be the inventors of the world’s future technology. They should be equipped to decide what is right for them and supported to grow the behaviours and skills they need to thrive. 

We want to contribute to the much-needed national evidence base and find out how we can support children to have healthier, positive online experiences. We are developing a community-led project to tackle some of these issues in Corsham. Look out for further details in the coming months.


(2) p.8 2017 

Personal data: how much do people know or care?

Personal data: how much do people know or care?

At Ci, we are focused on empowering people and building trust. Our recent blog post looked at public attitudes to trust, data and digital rights and set out the plans we had for our Your Data, Your Rights (YDYR) project in Corsham. We talk more about the results from our survey below and what we are planning to do next.

GDPR and the public: do they care?

With the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) just days away on 25 May, there is still a big gap in engagement and communication with the public on what the GDPR means for people. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) carries extensive material to help businesses comply with the regulation but, to date, there has been nothing focused on the public – although its new Your Data Matters campaign will be launched on the day of GDPR implementation.

Following the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, earlier public engagement around data protection, privacy and ownership now feels like a missed opportunity. We carried out our Your Data, Your Rights survey shortly after the news broke and asked our respondents some questions about its impact on their attitudes: 

  • 80% said that the events had made them think more about their data and what they share online
  • 40% said it had changed the way they feel about organisations having access to their data ‘a lot’, with a higher impact on the over-65s (60% answering ‘a lot’) than the 16-25s (only 10%). 

In response to our other survey questions, there was also a clear demand for more information on how people could use their new digital rights. 

In stage 2 of our project, we want to address this demand: working with the local community to develop their understanding of personal data, and how they control, share and protect it. You can read more about our project, our approach and the local survey results by clicking the button. 

Below we explore some of the more notable findings which either suggest differing levels of knowledge and awareness between different demographic groups, or where the local and national comparison is significant.

Also, to give our local survey some context, we have pulled together more of the recent national survey findings on people’s attitudes to data sharing in the slideshow below.

Understanding of personal data

We started our survey with some questions about people’s existing levels of knowledge on data and found that many people are unsure about the essentials. When given four definitions of ‘personal data’ to choose from, including the accepted ICO definition, 48% of respondents either selected the wrong response or admitted they didn’t know. Knowledge was poorest among the over-65s; and, in response to a question inviting respondents to identify all the types of data they would consider to be ‘personal’ (such as date of birth, mobile phone records, health data etc.), fewer of the younger generation (16-25 year olds) correctly classed their political opinions, genetic data and their name as personal data.

In terms of knowledge about how much data was collected about them, only 18% of our respondents overall said they knew a lot about the collection of their data, similar to the 20% of people in the Eurobarometer survey who felt they are ‘always informed about data collection and the way data are used’. Seventeen percent of our Corsham respondents said they knew nothing at all about what their data might be used for. 

But, for Corsham residents, the collection of their data was important to them: 60% of respondents said they care a lot about what organisations might use their data for (rising to a staggering 87% among over-65s), while only 3% said they didn’t care at all and 4% said they hadn’t thought about it before. Overall, however, these figures are much lower than the 94% of respondents to doteveryone’s digital attitudes survey who said it was important to know how their data is used.


Attitudes towards data use

Our survey showed that people had different attitudes to their data being used for different purposes. People report being most happy for organisations to use their data:

  • To comply with legal requirements (75%)
  • To provide the product/service they want (64%)
  • To help the NHS (62%, a figure far higher than a UK survey for the ODI would suggest, where 47% of respondents would share medical data about themselves if it helped develop new medicines and treatment); and
  • For local councils to provide better services (50%; which contrasts with the ODI’s survey that found only 26% were willing to share their data if it helped identify which new public services should be funded). 

Our respondents were least happy with organisations selling their data for profit (only 1% indicated they were happy with use of data for this purpose), to receive marketing/advertising (6%) and to share with partners for services (7%).


Attitudes towards control of data

In our survey, only 2% of respondents said they felt they had full control of their data but, when asked how much control they would want, 77% answered ‘full control’ (which is lower than the 90% answering the same to the Pega European survey in 2017, and the 91% who replied to the doteveryone survey to say it was important to be able to choose how much data they share with companies). 

Only 1% of our respondents wanted no control, which aligns with the Big Brother Watch Survey where 0.7% responded similarly. 


GDPR awareness

We ran the survey with just over a month to go before the implementation of GDPR. Sixty percent of our respondents said they knew about it and what rights it will give them. Although this suggested high levels of awareness of GDPR as an event (according to Kantar TNS' GDPR Awareness Index, only 34% of the general public were aware of GDPR in February), only 19% said they knew a lot about how to use the new rights it would give them.

One of the most interesting aspects of our survey was the responses to a series of questions on the new rights that individuals would be granted under GDPR, which we set out in our survey results update. Taking the right to erasure as a point of comparison with other surveys, national surveys have suggested that 62% welcome the right to erasure (SAS) and, at a European level, that up to 93% of people would erase their data if they weren’t comfortable with how they thought companies used it (Pega). In our Corsham survey, people said they would be less likely to ask for erasure than to rectify their data. Again, those over-65 were most likely to ask for their data to be erased: 87% were either likely or very likely to do so. 


What next?

So, we have lots to explore further with the community, and we will be interested in their feedback on our findings. In the coming months, Ci will work with local Corsham community groups, organisations and individuals to discuss the survey results and identify, then co-produce, the information they need to help them understand their rights, and how and when they can use them.

Ci will use the insight and evidence gathered via from the community to feed into our Digital Trust project, where we are working with partners to influence a regional and national debate with policymakers, other influencers and organisations. We will report back on the next stage of that work here soon. 

In focus: data, digital rights and our connected society

In focus: data, digital rights and our connected society

On 25 May, our data rights will change with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Over the next fortnight, the Corsham Institute (Ci) and RAND Europe Observatory for a Connected Society  – the only app and web platform dedicated to bringing together the latest research, insight and analysis on all aspects of digital and tech policy – will be focusing on the topic of data. 

During this period, the Observatory will host:

The Observatory for a Connected Society will also be teaming up with techUK to support their Data Protection Week which kicks off on Monday 21 May.

As well as providing the latest insight on all things digital at your fingertips, the Observatory has recently launched its new community section where you can post comments, start discussions and build your own network. Download the app and get involved! We look forward to hearing your views.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on the UK

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on the UK

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on the UK has been a hot topic this week, with the publication of the comprehensive report from the House of Lords Select Committee on AI. AI in the UK: ready, willing and able put forward many sensible recommendations, which Ci supports, on areas such as: skills, education and lifelong learning; data sharing and trust; and, fundamentally, the need for AI to be designed and developed for “the common good and benefit of humanity”. Greater public dialogue and engagement is urgently needed – not just on AI and its application in the future, but also on the pace of data-driven change in the here and now. We’ll be returning to that theme next month as we publish the results of our “Your Data, Your Rights” survey and set out the next steps on that work. 

So it’s incredibly timely that, after a successful 2017 event, techUK is running another “AI week”, bringing together news, insight and different perspectives on the opportunities AI can bring to the UK from a variety of leading experts, industry champions and thought leaders. We’ll be supporting this on the Corsham Institute and RAND Europe Observatory for a Connected Society which will feature three exclusive comment pieces next week from: Sue Daley, techUK’s Head of Cloud, Data and AI; Andrew Burgess, a leading expert and author on applying AI in business; and Rachel Neaman, Ci’s CEO. The Observatory already hosts lots of recent research and analysis on AI and related themes, which we’ll be pulling together into handy digests; plus it features all the highest-profile events, conferences and other activities on AI in the UK in the months to come. Do download the app to find out more; and we will also be sharing some of the best of techUK’s “AI week” content there next week too.

Your Data, Your Rights survey launched

Your Data, Your Rights survey launched

YDYR Logo.png

Today, (3 April), Ci has launched a new survey to benchmark individuals’ knowledge and attitudes to their data rights.

With recent headlines dominated by the use of our personal data and the introduction of new rights under GDPR by the end of May, understanding people's attitudes regarding what data is collected, shared and used about them is both vital and timely.

The survey focuses on people who live, work or study in our Digital Corsham community and forms part of Ci’s Communities Programme. It is the initial stage of a longer term project, ’Your Data, Your Rights’, which will use the survey to identify the information people need to help them understand their rights and how and when they can use them. 

With growing public concern around the security and privacy of personal information it’s more important than ever that everyone is fully aware of their data rights and is properly informed about how to act on them. 

The ‘Your Data, Your Rights’ project in Corsham will inform the wider debate and thinking about data rights and the use of personal data.

If you live, work or study in the Corsham area, please take the survey. It only takes 10 minutes. 

Trust, data and digital rights

Trust, data and digital rights

In just over two months, on 25 May, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in the UK. There’s no shortage of advice for businesses on preparing for it – from the detailed guidance and resources produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office through to a rapidly growing industry of GDPR seminars, conferences and blogs.

If we look at it from the perspective of “data subjects” – that’s all of us as individuals – the GDPR will enshrine a host of new rights that we can action in relation to the data that companies and organisations hold on us. The recent Digital Leaders blog by Catherine Knivett, Ci’s Head of Partnerships, sets these out in more detail. These new rights will undoubtedly change the relationship between individuals and any organisation that holds their data. And, under the headline-grabbing shadow of a fine of up to £17m, or 4% of global turnover, the focus in the run-up to 25 May is on how organisations can demonstrate compliance with GDPR.

Compliance suggests a reluctant, reactive, “if we must” burden. But these rights are vital for individuals. Those individuals are customers, consumers, clients, subscribers, service users, patients, members of professional or social communities – the people that organisations should care about. So this is an incredible opportunity: an opportunity for companies to demonstrate how much they value their relationship with the people whose data they hold, how they can transparently and proactively make that data-exchange relationship better, and how they can improve it for the long-term, to the benefit of both sides. At our recent Digital Leaders South West salon, we explored some of these issues and you can read the reflections of one of our guest speakers, MyLifeDigital’s J Cromack, here.   

So how much do we know about people’s attitudes to data: its protection and their rights to privacy and control? Do we know how this links to their level of trust in organisations that hold their data? And what do they want those companies to do to improve their understanding and trust? Thanks to a number of recent surveys and analyses of public attitudes to data and technology (for example, from the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Doteveryone) we are getting a fuller picture of what people think, and what they might want in return. For example, Doteveryone found that:

95% of people say it’s important to know their data is secure

94% say it’s important to know how their data is used

91% say it’s important to be able to choose how much data they share with companies

51% would like to know how their data is used but can’t find out


In the ODI’s survey, 94% of respondents said trust was important in deciding to share personal data. It also found that 33% of respondents would feel more comfortable sharing data if organisations explained how it is used and shared, and 18% would welcome step-by-step instructions from organisations about how to share data safely.

We have pulled together more of the recent survey findings on people’s attitudes to data sharing in the slideshow below.

But how much do we know about how people are going to react once GDPR comes into force? Well, not quite so much. A survey of 7,000 consumers across seven European countries in December 2017 asked people what they identified as the most important rights under GDPR:

  • 47% of the respondents identified the ability to simply see the information the companies hold on them
  • 22% identified the ability to demand they erase their personal data
  • 9% identified the visibility of when their personal data is used to make automated decisions.

However, a whopping 93% of European respondents said they would erase their data if they weren’t comfortable with how companies were using it. (An interesting footnote from this survey is that UK residents appear to be the least likely to act once GDPR comes in: 74% compared to 82% overall in the survey.) When it comes to it, will people act? If they want to erase their data, will they know how to? Will they understand what the implications are: what they might miss out on, as well as what they might gain in terms of greater control? That’s just one of the things we intend to investigate in our new Ci Communities project: “Your Data, Your Rights”. Read more about it here.

This project goes to the heart of Ci’s mission to empower people and build trust. If you want to get involved, or find out more, contact us at and we’ll be reporting back regularly on progress on this blog.

Sam's story - National Apprenticeship Week 2018

Sam's story - National Apprenticeship Week 2018

Last week we celebrated National Apprenticeship Week with Digital Leaders. Our current apprentices, Sam and Kara, are completing their qualifications in Creative & Digital Media. You can find out more about their experience by reading Sam's blog below.

My name is Sam Bishop, and I am a 19-year-old Junior Content Producer here at Corsham Institute. I started my apprenticeship in September 2017, and have found it completely eye-opening and rewarding, right from the start.

I wanted to do an apprenticeship after finishing sixth form as I felt that it was a beneficial way to learn and develop skills in areas I have an interest in, all while gaining a qualification and building a portfolio. The reason why I chose Corsham Institute is because filming, editing, social media, podcasts, writing, and other forms of digital media really appeal to me, and the amount of work Ci does in these areas, and the extent of their professionalism, was clear. There are many things I enjoy about my role. I enjoy meeting with new people with a variety of backgrounds, going to new places and shooting videos around a real range of interesting topics.

Post-apprenticeship, I would love to do more film production work, with the skills I have developed through being at Ci and the experience I have in film studies from A-level, helping me to discover my love for the production and post-production side of filming. Whether I look for a position, internship, apprenticeship or University course is unclear at this stage, but Ci has helped open my eyes to discover my true passion.

The skills, both creative and business related, that I have developed is rather extensive. My time management has been improved, through trying to meet strict deadlines, forward planning and creating meeting arrangements. I have gained a greater knowledge of social media, through helping manage the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. The change from sixth form to apprenticeship is completely different. That was something I noticed quite early. With school, you were only really looking after yourself, with your lateness, punctuality, professionalism and approach to learning only affecting you. In an apprenticeship, if you are half-hearted with any of these factors, not only you feel it, but the others around you. Corsham Institute is very much a team, that pull together to create some fantastic pieces of work. That is because everybody works hard. Team-work and professionalism are by far the most valuable skills I have developed from being at Ci.

There have been many highlights so far in the apprenticeship, but these are by far my favourites:

·      Filming, interviewing and editing a video with children’s illustrator

·      Travelling to Cambridge to shoot a video with RAND Europe’s Hans Pung

·      Running social media at the House of Lords for the launch of the Observatory app

·      Assisting videographer Remco Merbis at the Vision Conference in Bristol

·      Shooting and editing a short advert style video for Interactive Scientific

·      Travelling to Gloucestershire to shoot a video for the Cyber4School® pilot

·      Helping collate data for the Digital Corsham Safer Internet Day survey

·      Editing the Safer Internet Day video under a strict timeframe

·      Running the monthly social media report and the weekly communication report

·      Learning filming and design at Cirencester College.

I would heavily recommend apprenticeships as I feel it allows you to improve professionally, while gaining valuable experience in a field of your interest, as well as meet new people and prepare you for a range of work environments, all whilst receiving a qualification. It is an opportunity I am delighted I had, and I can’t thank those at Ci enough.

Kara's story - National Apprenticeship Week 2018

Kara's story - National Apprenticeship Week 2018

Last week we celebrated National Apprenticeship Week with Digital Leaders . Our current apprentices, Sam and Kara, are completing their qualifications in Creative & Digital Media. You can find out more about their experience by reading Kara's blog below.

My name is Kara and I’m a Junior Content Producer at Corsham Institute. I help plan, film and edit videos, create animations and graphics to support the work done at Corsham Institute. I’m also learning about creating interactive media such as games and VR content.

I chose the apprenticeship pathway as it offered the work-based learning and office experience I was looking for, as well as providing an opportunity to learn new skills and gain a qualification. I had already completed a University degree in Animation, so I also wanted a job that would allow me to apply the skills I had learnt to a work environment. Ci has allowed me to build a portfolio of client-based animation work as well as building skills in new areas, such as live action filming and editing.

Ci appealed to me because I was interested in the type of work they’re doing around digital skills and the future of the tech world and I enjoy the variety of projects I get to work on via my apprenticeship. One day I’ll be filming, the next editing and then I might be working on an animated graphic, such as the video I created for our House of Lords event. The chance to build all of these skills is really valuable. I also appreciate the support we’re given from Ci, as even though we’re still learning our roles, our co-workers respect our skills and listen to the feedback we give, which makes me feel like a real member of the team. 

After my apprenticeship I’d like to continue to work in content creation, maybe moving more towards games and interactive content. This apprenticeship is helping prepare me for future careers both from a technical skills point of view and by helping me experience the softer skills side. Things such as writing emails, planning projects, communicating with colleagues, managing budgets, risk assessments, are all valuable skills that help prepare me for the rest of my career. Technically I’ve learnt about many content creation areas and also had the chance to work with new technology, such as the VR lab at Bristol University, through Ci’s industry links.

Some of the highlights of things I’ve worked on so far would be interviewing local artists for our Peacock Arts Trail video series, creating a video for Jamie’s Farm, and being able to experience VR software and training sessions. I’ve also really enjoyed filming and editing the TEDx Corsham event. 

I would recommend apprenticeships as a good way to get into the industry if you know what career path you’d like to pursue as you get to learn relevant skills, develop a portfolio and build experience that will benefit you throughout your career. 

Dataclysm, and our 100,000th download

Dataclysm, and our 100,000th download

Some time this week, our podcast Ci - Countering Violent Extremism will celebrate its 100-thousandth download. That will be a proud moment for us, and we’d first like to say thank you to all the listeners around the world who’ve followed us through our first ten episodes. With this eleventh, we’ve hit a milestone far beyond our original ambition.

Our podcast started September 29th last year. We aimed to bring the latest information and thinking about online radicalisation to not only specialists in the field, but also to frontline workers and folks on the street.

We’ve interviewed everyone from policy makers, through journalists and writers, to trainers and specialists in targeted data.

The first interview of our first episode, a talk with International Centre for Counter Terrorism Director Dr Alistair Reed, began with the phrase “Words matter”. We followed up by interviewing writer Cathy Otten.

Words matter, indeed. Dr Reed led us through the subtle and not so subtle differences between the variety of nominators of counter-terrorism. We explored the British government’s position, which emphasises Countering Extremism - a kind of ideological approach that attempts to push people toward ‘right’ thinking. And we looked at Countering Violent Extremism, an approach that takes the stand that radical thought is a normal part of daily political discourse, and that only ideologies leading to violence are worthy of address at the government level.

Cathy Otten then took us through a harrowing journey, recounting the experience of Yazidi women trapped by ISIS, forced into sex slavery, murdered for their history and ideology, and eventually forced to flee Mount Sinjar, with many crossing the desert on foot to relative safety in Iraqi Kurdistan.

But we’ve also covered topics as broad as fake news and, in our latest episode, data protection laws and surveillance practices in China, the EU and the United States. What do data protection laws have to do with Countering Violent Extremism? Everything.
Individuals throughout the world are as likely now to encounter news and information online as through a traditional broadcaster or publisher. And often they’re yielding their data as they do, leaving footprints, revealing habits, preferences, religion, ethnicity and political beliefs.

In doing so, we all make ourselves easy targets, not only for advertisers and social platforms, but also for governments keen on social control, as evidenced by social credit score in China. But we’re also easy targets for security services, and for foreign bad actors like Putin’s Russia, seeking to force citizenries into rival silos of information, undermining democracy and the rule of law.

Corsham’s Safer Internet Day - video

Corsham’s Safer Internet Day - video

“It’s important to be safe online, because lots of people are being bullied...”


“If people don’t learn about online safety… anything can happen”


These are just two of the comments from young people in Corsham, featured in the video Ci filmed in a number of Corsham area schools as part of our work on Safer Internet Day 2018.

Teachers also reflect on the work being done to bring the schools and community together to empower young people to use the internet safely. We want to create informed citizens of the future and by involving the whole community in the conversation about this, children, parents, teachers and carers we can start to have some real impact.


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Other activities to support Safer Internet Day in Corsham include an exhibition of findings from the survey of 2000-plus pupils, which runs at the Springhill Campus throughout February half-term before touring the participating schools.

Corsham Safer Internet Survey 2018 – the results

Corsham Safer Internet Survey 2018 – the results

Ci today published the full results of the Corsham Safer Internet Survey, carried out with 10 schools across the Corsham area to mark Safer Internet Day 2018.

The survey included responses from over 2000 pupils: 1,243 Primary School and 840 Secondary School students between the ages of 4 and 18 from across Corsham, Box, Neston and Colerne.

Some of the key headlines were as follows:

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  • 36 per cent of 11-18-year old girls have felt bullied online in the last 12 months; in contrast only 23 per cent of boys say the same thing.

  • The average age children got their first social media account was 10.9 years old, despite most social media sites asking users to be 13 or over.

  • 46 per cent of 11-18-year-olds said that Instagram was the first social media account they signed up to, while 14 per cent said it was Snapchat and 21 per cent Facebook.

  • Overall 10 per cent of 11-18-year-olds have ‘felt pressured’ to share a picture of themselves online. Broken down by gender, 13 per cent of girls said they had, compared to 6 per cent of boys.

  • A quarter of secondary school children are using the internet to meet with people they have never met before. 32 per cent of young people at Secondary School said that in the last year they had contact with someone online who they hadn’t met face-to-face before.

  • 30 per cent of 4-18-year-olds admitted they have been “upset or bothered by something they saw online” in the past year

  • 10 per cent of 11-18-year-olds admitted they have treated someone online in a hurtful or mean way in the past year

You can read more about the survey findings here.

Corsham Institute are proud to be working with schools and local groups to ensure the next generation are properly informed about how to use the internet safely. Our programme of activities and events this week will provide information for parents, pupils and teachers about how to reduce the risks posed by online sites and social media and ensure our community enjoys digital technology safely and confidently.

The Corsham Safer Internet Survey results form part of a special exhibition which opens today for a fortnight at Springfield Community Campus, Beechfield Road, Corsham SN13 9DN.

All the schools in the area have also been coordinating special Safer Internet Day activities, lessons, assemblies and parent/carer workshops to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology by children and young people.

We’ll be posting a video, produced by Ci 's Creative Team, on this blog showcasing some of the great local school activities.


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How can the internet be made safer?

How can the internet be made safer?

‘Hopefully, in 10 years’ time, the internet will be a nicer place.’ - Secondary School pupil


We would all, of course, agree that the internet should be a safer and more respectful place, but how does the next generation think the internet will change and how could it be made better?

In the run-up to Safer Internet Day (6 February), we’ve been engaging with local schools in Corsham. Ten schools – all those in the local area – have been involved and over 2,000 children across the age groups have responded to a survey about their online usage and behaviours. More detailed results will be published on this blog next week.


Before then, here’s a taster of some of the pupils’ fascinating and insightful responses to some of the survey questions.

On the question of who is responsible for making the internet safer primary age children gave wideranging answers from The Queen to Siri, from Mummy to my Head Teacher, to the Community, to everyone in the World.

Looking ahead to what the internet will be like in a decade, views from a range of secondary school students included:

‘that, in 10 years’ time the internet will be faster, safer, cooler, more private, more sophisticated and there will be artificial intelligence and more social media’.


And how could it be better?

‘The internet would be a better place if there were less adverts, less hackers, more filtering of inappropriate content and more privacy.’  - Secondary School pupils

‘The internet would be a safer place if people only signed up to social media accounts for their age and if people were more careful who they talk to online.’ - Secondary School pupils

‘The internet would be a better place if there wasn’t so much pressure on your appearance.’ - Secondary School pupil


The full survey responses and the statistical results will be presented in a week-long public exhibition in Corsham to coincide with Safer Internet Day and then in further reports and blogs by Ci.

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year, to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people. Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre, it involves over a thousand schools and hundreds of organisations getting involved to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology by children and young people. 

Globally, Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe.

More details about our work for Safer Internet Day can be found here.

Supporting children in a changing world

Supporting children in a changing world

Life in Likes, the recent report from the Children’s Commissioner on social media use by 8-12 year olds, injected some much needed realism and insight into the debate about children’s adoption of technology.

Social media sites’ terms and conditions may say they restrict users to children aged 13 or over, but there is a steady rise in the use of social media by children much younger than that. Ofcom’s 2017 report, Children’s Media Lives, reported that 28% of 10 year olds have a social media profile, rising to 46% at 11, 51% at 12 and then 72% at 13 when they are ‘allowed’ access.  “Life in Likes” suggested that the figures for under-13’s may well be higher, and that three-quarters of 10-12 year olds now have a social media account.

Informed by focus groups with 8-12 year olds, the Children’s Commissioner’s report suggested that there was a “cliff edge” for children at the transition from primary to secondary school, with increased exposure to online pressures for which they were unprepared. The discussions suggested that this led to children: seeing “likes” as a form of social validation; worrying about keeping up appearances and an online “image”; oversharing personal information; and being anxious at missing out if not connected. As Ofcom’s research also charted a steep hike in smartphone ownership at this point of transition – from 39% of 8-11 year olds to 83% of 12-15 year olds – it is easy to see how the relationship between children and technology can move from being a source of creativity, fun and entertainment in the home environment to one associated with constant social and emotional pressure, both in and out of school.

Far from being “digital natives”, confident in their relationship with tech, children and young people need to be supported, informed and empowered to build resilience, critical thinking and digital literacy. Not just once, as a curriculum tick-box, but throughout their school years and into lifelong learning in order to keep pace with the evolution of technology and its uses. When the Children’s Commissioner also reports that 73% of parents are concerned about their children accessing inappropriate material online, 49% are worried about their children oversharing personal information, and 61% fear social media is an overwhelming distraction (Growing Up Digital, 2017) there has never been more of a need to bring parents along on the journey too, so that the huge benefits of digital technology for their children’s futures aren’t lost in an existential panic about the online world they have entered.

What to do? “Life in Likes” recommended that the Government:

  • Broaden digital literacy education beyond safety messages, to develop children’s critical awareness, resilience and understanding of algorithms, focusing on the transition stage from primary to secondary school.  
  • Inform parents about the ways in which children’s social media use changes with age, particularly on entry to secondary school, and help them support children to use social media in a positive way, and to disengage from it.

So it is positive to see that significant – and coordinated – proposals along these lines are being put forward by the Government through last year’s Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper from DCMS and the joint Department of Health/Department for Education Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health, which is currently out for consultation until 2 March. Both these papers recognise that digital skills are no longer just about coding and child protection online but also about relationships, citizenship and life skills. Indeed DfE’s current consultation/call for evidence (which closes on 12 February) on the introduction of compulsory teaching on Relationships (in primary schools) and Relationships and Sex Education (in secondary schools) includes aspects of digital resilience and critical thinking in the proposed curriculum.

“This decision [to make Relationships education compulsory] was taken in recognition of the fact that children need more support to navigate growing up in an increasingly complex and digital world. Whilst the internet is an overwhelmingly positive development in our lives, it does present significant challenges, particularly for young people. The dominance of social media, the prevalence of cyber-bullying and the risk that children learn about relationships from untrustworthy sources – the evidence was compelling that young people need support to make the right decisions and keep themselves safe online”.

We recognise this need for support and we’re doing our bit at Ci. Read more at the links below:


Season’s greetings from the Ci team

Season’s greetings from the Ci team

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As we head towards the Christmas break, it’s time for a little reminder of what Corsham Institute (Ci) has been up to in 2017.

Wishing you all a happy and relaxing festive season. We look forward to working with all our communities, partners and supporters again in the New Year. 

A review of 2017

It’s been busy! Here are some of our highlights.

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Expanding our team

Over the year we have welcomed a new CEO and 11 members of staff to our expanding team, including two apprentices and an executive leadership team. In the new year, we are also expecting to appoint a new Chair and more Trustees to our Board. 
As a result of our growing team and our desire to be closer to our networks and key stakeholders, we’ve now opened a London office.


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Thought Leadership

A major highlight for us this year was the successful second season of our Thought Leadership events, in partnership with RAND Europe. The 2017 programme saw representatives from industry, academia, the not-for-profit sector and Government come together to discuss Open Science, Digital Currency, Digital Learning and Civic Engagement. You can find out more about our Thought Leadership programme and read the reports here.


Observatory for a Connected Society

In October we launched our first app, the Observatory for a Connected Society, in partnership with RAND Europe. It is a ‘one-stop shop’ for the latest research, analysis and thinking from leading experts on the impact of digital technologies, services and tools on society. Find out more about the app and where to download it here.


Countering Violent Extremism

This September, we launched our Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme. This programme is built on a combination of positive narrative, education and data, and through it we have launched a regular CVE podcast which is now amongst the 5% most downloaded podcasts globally. 


Digital Leaders South West

In November this year, Ci was also delighted to launch a new partnership with Digital Leaders. We will be working together to facilitate new and refreshing thought leadership, networking opportunities and exciting events for the digital community across the South West region.



In 2017, Ci became the national partner of The Cyber Trust to deliver Cyber4Schools®. This UK-wide programme helps children stay safe online. Cyber4Schools® is currently being piloted in Gloucestershire.

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Ci Patron Programme

Building mutually beneficial partnerships and a network of supporters is key to our success and the impact we deliver. During 2017 we introduced our new Patron programme, creating a community of influential organisations and individuals that share our vision and support our mission and work programme. To find out more about becoming a Patron click here.

We look forward to continue working for a fair, inclusive, prosperous and creative society based on trust and security. Keep an eye on our Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for all our latest news and activities.

AI, data ethics and digital society: we need to talk …

AI, data ethics and digital society: we need to talk …

Artificial intelligence, data ethics and trust have risen up the tech thought-leadership agenda in recent months. TechUK’s excellent Digital Ethics summit on 13 December brought together a veritable who’s who of influencers and leaders from industry, academia, government and policy institutions for a day of lively and engaging debate. #AIethics was even trending on Twitter as the summit progressed, to the bemusement of athletics fans clicking on what they thought was a misspelt hashtag.

It’s not all just talk: not one, but two bodies focusing on data ethics and innovation have been announced in recent months. The Government’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation was announced in the Autumn Budget , while the Nuffield Foundation has brought a number of partners together to establish a Convention on Data Ethics and Artificial Intelligence, set out in detail by Nuffield’s Tim Gardam in his speech at the techUK summit. How they will work together, and avoid duplication and blurred boundaries, will be a challenge in an already crowded institutional landscape. Maybe, as Antony Walker, deputy Chief Executive of techUK, suggested in his closing remarks, the Government body might deal with the here-and-now political imperatives, while the Nuffield Convention might focus on horizon-scanning, creating space for deeper consideration of longer-term issues before they materialise. Sensible in theory, but a potential leadership and accountability muddle in practice.

Throughout the summit, speaker after speaker emphasised the importance of building trust, engaging the public, and of bridging the gap between innovators and customers, between industry and civic society. It’s a theme that also ran through the discussions at the Royal Society and British Academy’s seminar in October on “Data management and use: governance in the 21st century”. Their report and the associated papers, including a contribution from Maeve Walsh, Ci’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, was also published to coincide with the techUK summit. So, it was reassuring to hear from Tim Gardam that public engagement was a priority for the Nuffield Convention – though his conclusion that it was “one critical area where we have to further define our thinking” also suggests it might take a while.

Ci has long believed that the citizen must be at the heart of all decisions about the kind of digital future we want to build. This was a resounding conclusion from our Thought Leadership programme this year. The pace of technological change and the speed of innovation means that many profound changes to the way we live are already underway. Some of these may be hugely beneficial for individuals and communities, and socially or ethically neutral; others may have disturbing unintended consequences or create unequal socio-economic impacts. Some may be both, at the same time. What is certain is that Governments, regulators and policymakers are currently playing catch-up, whether it’s trying to mitigate the impact of the bad stuff, or create the conditions to amplify and spread the benefits of the good.

But speed of change is no excuse for not starting a dialogue with the public now. There isn’t going to be a natural break in the pace of technological transformation anytime soon, no pause in progress where we can take a deep breath and take stock. This is no longer a debate about the kind of digital society we want to see in the future, but what kind of society. Shaping this future, as Matt Hancock acknowledged at the techUK summit, is not something Government can do alone. Nor, we would argue, can the impressive range of organisations – however broad and diverse – at the techUK summit, or any number of other such events every week. This debate has to break out of the tech-conference circuit and speak directly to the public in terms that are meaningful to them.

That is why a few weeks ago we hosted a roundtable with groups from across civic society and the charitable sector to discuss the current common themes and concerns in relation to digital engagement and technological progress. Our starting point was that the dialogue between Government and the tech industry on the kind of future we want to see has to be informed, urgently, by the citizen’s perspective. In short: if the Government’s Digital Charter was truly citizen-centric, what would it look like?

At our roundtable, we heard from groups representing older people, young people, disadvantaged groups and those with disabilities, as well as representatives from industry, those working in the field of digital inclusion and engagement, and researchers. As we’d hoped, there was an overwhelming consensus that greater collaboration and partnership on common priorities across these interest groups was vital, that we need to bring the citizen into the conversation, and that we must ensure that we protect and support the most vulnerable in society to make choices about how technology will affect them.

We’ll be continuing this dialogue and collaboration with urgency and enthusiasm in the New Year. Watch this space and get in touch if you’d like to be involved. 

Cyber4Schools® kicks off its pilot in Gloucestershire

Cyber4Schools® kicks off its pilot in Gloucestershire

This week marked an important milestone for the pilot of Cyber4Schools®, the learning programme to help children stay safe online. Ci is the national partner to the Cyber Trust to deliver Cyber4Schools®. Professor Richard Benham, Ci’s Programme Director for Cyber, Trust and Security, carried out the first online safety lesson with Year 7 pupils at Chosen Hill School in Gloucestershire. 

The pilot’s focus is on 11-year-olds, the typical age when smartphones give children their first unsupervised access to the Internet, and is supported by Gloucestershire Police, Gloucestershire County Council and Cyber Security Challenge UK.

The pilot

Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Martin Surl, was the first PCC in the country to make cyber security a police priority. At the start of their lesson, the children were delighted to be presented with a CyberCitizen® for their school by Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire, Chris Brierley. This life-size character created by Cyber4Schools®  provides the pupils with an appealing, visual reminder of the importance of being safe online. They then enjoyed a range of interactive activities, quizzes and a discussion about how to use mobile devices safely, with some fun facts and videos about staying safe online. They all received personalised certificates at the end of the lesson. 


Media coverage

Cyber4Schools® received lots of media interest on the day. Journalists interviewed the Head of Chosen Hill School, Kirsten Harrison, and talked to the children. They also spoke to Chris Brierley, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire, and Professor Benham. As soon as the press coverage is published we'll post the links here.

This links to the blog post from Gloucestershire's Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner: Cyber4Schools - a lesson in how to keep safe online

On the Heart Gloucestershire News Facebook page they have posted a short video about the Cyber4Schools® pilot. 

Why online safety education for children is important

The learning experience children enjoy nowadays has evolved rapidly, corresponding with the pace of technological change around them. They’re digitally aware, jumping into the latest social media trends and sharing more personal information online than any previous generation. They take advantage of what the Internet has to offer, using it to build on their knowledge and expand their network of friendships. The recently published Digital Childhood Report highlights a rapid increase in the number of young people between 10 and 12 using digital devices. But has their social maturity evolved at the same pace as the technology around them? And do they have the skills and knowledge to understand how to behave and stay safe online?

More and more people, including children, are falling victim to cyberbullying, cybercrime and exploitation. In its 2016–17 Childline annual review, the NSPCC recorded an increase in children and young people talking to Childline about online safety and abuse. Over the year there were more than 12,200 counselling sessions, up 9 per cent on the previous year.

Baroness Beeban-Kidron’s 5Rights Framework, and the Children’s Commissioner in her recent report, Growing up Digital, identified the societal imperative to protect and safeguard our children online. Cyber4Schools® responds to this need, helping 11-year-olds to become informed cybercitizens, essential for a thriving future society and economy.

The pilot in Gloucestershire is the first step towards achieving this. It's important to listen, learn and gather feedback to shape and improve the programme.


Support for the national rollout

We are keen to hear from sponsors and partners who can help us scale the Cyber4Schools programme and are keen for schools to register their interest.  For further information, please contact us on

This holiday season, children all over the country will receive the latest tech gifts, allowing them to browse the Internet, stream videos, play games, share content and connect with friends more easily than ever before. Ci is delighted to be the national partner to the Cyber Trust to deliver Cyber4Schools® at this time, equipping some of these young people with the essential skills they’ll need to keep themselves safe online.

Britain’s big (epistemological) break

Britain’s big (epistemological) break

An epistemic break has gripped the British Isles — a crisis of understanding of what is true, what is false and how we collectively decide.

Modern culture’s greatest institutions — of all four estates — are called into question on a daily basis. The government makes a declaration. A newscaster calls it false. A blogger claims something else. And your Best Facebook Friend says they’re all liars, before adding a new news link.

Whether we call it “computational propaganda”, viral disinformation, or simply “Fake News”, the civil society and its citizens seemingly struggle now more than ever with truth and lies.

Government inquiries into fake news have been launched in several countries, including the UK’s own Parliamentary Select Committee investigation, adding evidence to the prospect of a crisis state. Just consider that according to Demos, 67% of the British public are concerned about fake news.

How did we get here? We propose a few ideas in our own submission to the Select Committee, pointing out that fake news is now one of the most powerful forces countering democracy, that the rise of social media has changed the nature and distribution of real news, and that fake news contributes to radical ideologies that encourage acts of violence, from radical Islam through white nationalism.

We make several recommendations as well, including establishing programmes to promote critical thinking skills around digital and social media, helping citizens separate the truth from the hype.

Was there ever a halcyon time when truth was truth, without dispute? Doubtful. Propaganda has been with us from the beginning of recorded civilisation, but democracy is a process, not a destination — all the more reason that constant vigilance, long-view approaches, and ongoing programmes of media education and literacy are vital to maintaining the interests and ideals of the civil society.

Read Ci’s submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee’s investigation into fake news on our app, The Observatory for a Connected Society.

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Building trust in the future