Consultation response: House of Lords Communications Committee's inquiry 'The internet: to regulate or not to regulate'

14 May 2018

The Royal Society has responded to the House of Lords Communications Committee’s inquiry 'The internet: to regulate or not to regulate'. 

The Royal Society’s response strongly resists a one-size fits all approach to governance of data and its uses, and calls for a renewed governance framework for data use to ensure trustworthiness and trust in the management and use of data as a whole that: 

  • protects individual and collective rights and interests
  • ensures that trade-offs affected by data management and data use are made transparently, accountably and inclusively
  • seeks out good practices and learn from success and failure
  • enhances existing democratic governance

The response also outlines the need for a stewardship body which would be expected to conduct inclusive dialogue and expert investigation into novel questions and issues, such as those related to the internet, and to enable new ways to anticipate the future consequences of today’s decisions. It warns against the regulation of machine learning algorithms specifically and advocates a more tailored sector specific approach to regulation. 

The response explains a series of challenges and tensions which must be considered as the capability and prevalence of data driven technologies increases, including: 

  • concepts of data governance which are under strain
  • balancing the benefits of tailored services and consumer convenience with risks to autonomy
  • encouraging innovation while maintaining public confidence and addressing societal needs